Before taking charge of party, Rahul Gandhi takes charge of his loyalists

The Congress vice president has put together a core team of young politicians to advise him, implement his agenda and enjoy unhindered access to him.

RUHI TEWARI

As Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi prepares to take complete charge of his party, which is struggling to keep pace with the daunting opposition of the BJP, a core team of some younger politicians of the party now form his inner circle—advising him, implementing his agenda, and enjoying unhindered  access to him.

Younger turks which include Haryana MLA and AICC communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala, former Lok Sabha MP and the party’s social media division head Divya Spandana, Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra and AICC secretary Rajiv Satav and Punjab MLA and Indian Youth Congress president Amrinder Singh Raja Brar, besides of course Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot and Lok Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia now form Rahul’s closest inner circle.

“Rahul Gandhi has formed this small but core circle of politicians all of whom he is dependent on and who owe their loyalties directly to him. This is unlike a lot of other senior Congress leaders like Ahmed Patel and others who would first be loyal to his mother,” a party source, who did not wish to be identified, said.

According to highly placed sources in the party, Surjewala has regular, almost daily conversations, with Rahul on the party’s media and communications strategy and the Congress vice president “trusts him implicitly”. Surjewala, whose father Ch. Shamsher Singh Surjewala was a Congress leader himself, is also an important leader for the party in Haryana, representing the Jat community. His importance in the national affairs of the party was established in 2015 when he was given the reigns of the fast sliding party’s communication department. His profile within the party since then has only grown, the sources said.

In a surprise move, Divya Spandana was made the head of the party’s social media division in May, replacing Lok Sabha MP Deepender Hooda but sources say she was carefully handpicked by Rahul for this role and it was her very public and bold remarks against the RSS and BJP that cemented her position in the party. The sources said she has been given a “carte blanche on budget, something the cell has never seen before”, clearly underscoring Rahul’s faith in her.

Both Surjewala and Spandana work closely in tandem with Mitakshara Kumari, who handles Rahul’s social media and communications strategy and after Spandana took charge as social media head, the three have regular conference calls every night to decide the next day’s strategy.

Satav, meanwhile, is one of the only two Congress MPs from Maharashtra and is an important voice for the greatly diminished party in the Lok Sabha. Sources say Satav, a former Youth Congress president, pushes Rahul’s agenda in Parliament. He has so far introduced 11 private member bills in the House, related to issues of transparency, equal access, etc. which espouse Rahul’s own worldview. Besides participating in 149 debates, well above the national average of 51, he also opened the Congress attack in the Lok Sabha during the crucial discussion on Aadhaar last year. “It’s clear Satav is building, and is being made to build, a certain profile in Parliament in line with the vice president’s own vision,” a party  source said, adding he is “the eyes and ears” of the Congress vice president in the key state of Maharashtra.

Satav was recently included as one of the four AICC secretaries who will assist veteran leader Ashok Gehlot in Gujarat, yet another indication of Rahul’s implicit faith in him as well as his rising political profile in the party.

IYC president Raja Brar impressed Rahul with his work and commitment as the party’s youth wing head, particularly with his spirited protest against the Vyapam Scam and Land Acquisition Ordinance near the Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha along with other IYC workers. Sources say Rahul is pushing to get Brar inducted in the Punjab cabinet and is positioning him for a larger role in the state once Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh calls it quits.

Meanwhile, both Scindia and Pilot continue to enjoy Rahul’s complete trust. While Scindia is poised for an even bigger role in the Lok Sabha where he is touted to be the next leader of the party, Pilot has been given a free hand and is the party’s face in Rajasthan which goes to polls end of next year.

 

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