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HomePoliticsCongress faces fresh challenge as ‘powerful general secretary’ KC Venugopal ruffles feathers

Congress faces fresh challenge as ‘powerful general secretary’ KC Venugopal ruffles feathers

KC Venugopal, the general secretary (organisation) of Congress, has become one of the most important leaders in the party, second only to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

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New Delhi: K.C. Venugopal’s rising importance in the Congress, coupled with what is seen by many as a concentration of power in his hands, has led to “organisational challenges”, “delays”, and many a disgruntled party member.

Venugopal, the 57-year-old general secretary (organisation) of the Congress has, in a matter of around three years, become one of the most important leaders in the party, second only to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

In December, Ruchi Gupta, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge of the party’s student wing National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), resigned from her position. In her message to NSUI colleagues, she blamed Venugopal for dragging his feet on important appointments. 

Venugopal’s way of functioning has also drawn censure within state units, with party leaders telling ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that he makes appointments without consultations with local members. 

Some leaders also noted that the elevation of Venugopal, who is known to be close to Rahul, in the party came as a “rude shock” to them as he was not exactly well-known within the Congress when he was appointed general secretary (organisation) in 2017. They pointed out that Venugopal himself hasn’t tried to build a rapport with party leaders either.

However, there are those who defend him. Talking about the Ruchi Gupta affair, NSUI president Neeraj Kundan said “political processes take time”. He instead faulted Gupta for abandoning the party at a difficult time.

ThePrint reached Venugopal via calls and text messages for a comment, but there was no response till the time of publication of this report.

Also Read: No need for post-mortem in Rajasthan crisis, govt is far from dead, says Congress’ Venugopal

‘Appointments without any consultations’

In her letter to NSUI colleagues, Gupta wrote, “As you know important organisational changes have remained pending for very long. The national committee took one year and three months. State presidents’ orders have remained pending for months. Many other state units are waiting for reorganisation to make space for new activists.” 

These “continuing delays by the GS(O)”, she added, “are damaging the organisation but in the present circumstances it is not possible to escalate repeatedly to Congress president. The situation has thus become untenable”.

Speaking to ThePrint, sources in the NSUI backed Gupta’s concerns, saying several state appointments in the body have been pending for close to a year now.

“The tenure for state unit leaders in the NSUI is supposed to be two years, but many have been sitting on these posts (for terms) far exceeding two years,” a senior NSUI functionary said. 

“Ruchi had spent the last year doing interviews for the appointment of new office-bearers in various states. But K.C. never signed off on any of these appointments. Without his approval, everything hit a state of complete stagnancy,” the functionary added. 

“Moreover, given that Ruchi had already interviewed people, the existing office-bearers in various states knew that their removal is imminent and so they also stopped working. Now, the situation became such that neither could there be new appointments nor would the existing units work.” 

Another NSUI functionary said that, “ordinarily, Gupta wouldn’t have needed Venugopal’s approval on her decisions”. 

“But given how the party president (Sonia Gandhi) isn’t very hands-on at the time, K.C. automatically becomes the man who calls the shots,” the functionary added.

NSUI president Kundan defended the party high command. “Political processes take time. But to resign at a time when the party is at a delicate stage, and is going through so much, isn’t right at all,” he told ThePrint.

However, it isn’t just the NSUI where Venugopal’s increasing power is making party colleagues jittery. Venugopal is “single-handedly” deciding appointments of state units across various states, even those of which he has “no knowledge”, some party leaders told ThePrint.

A senior Congress leader and MP said “appointments are taking place in the party round-the-clock, but without any consultations or knowledge of the state”.

As an example, multiple party leaders cited P. Viswanathan, who was appointed as an AICC secretary from Kerala on 19 December.

Viswanathan last won an election in 2009, and became an MP from Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram constituency. After losing the 2014 Lok sabha election from the same seat, Viswanathan joined G.K. Vasan’s Tamil Maanila Congress. However, in 2016, he returned to the Congress.

“He has no credentials, he has already quit the party once, which shows he’s hardly committed to the party. The only way he got the post of secretary is because he would go and sit in front of KC’s office all the time,” said a second party leader. “And then, when KC’s mother passed away, he went and visited him in Kerala, that’s it.” 

This, the leader added, is a “classic example of anyone being able to manage an appointment purely by gaining proximity to KC”.

ThePrint reached Viswanathan via calls and text messages, but had received no reply till the time of publishing this report.

Another Congress leader and AICC functionary said Venugopal is the “default decision-maker for all things concerning the top and the bottom” of the party. 

“The de jure leader, Sonia Gandhi, isn’t active. The de facto leader, Rahul Gandhi, isn’t willing. So, in such a scenario, it is K.C. who has all this power concentrated in his hands,” the leader added.

Also Read: How Rajasthan, Maharashtra & Manipur crises have showcased rise of Team Rahul in Congress

‘He doesn’t know party members, no knowledge of states’

Venugopal was a three-term MLA from Kerala’s Alappuzha constituency when he contested his maiden Lok Sabha election in 2009 and won. He retained his seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election as well, despite the drubbing faced by the party overall. 

According to party sources, it was during his tenure as an MP between 2014 and 2019 that he gained proximity to Rahul Gandhi. He did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In June 2020, Venugopal was elected Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan.

In the last two years, Venugopal has also emerged as one of the major players in ‘Team Rahul‘, playing the role of crisis manager in turmoils the party faced in Maharashtra, Manipur and, most recently, in Rajasthan.

Venugopal was first made the party’s general secretary in 2017, and appointed in-charge of Karnataka, which was headed for assembly polls the next year. 

In January 2019, Venugopal gained a significant elevation in the party, and was made the general secretary (organisation), replacing veteran leader Ashok Gehlot, who had moved on to assume charge as Rajasthan Chief Minister. 

Venugopal’s elevation, party sources said, came as a “rude shock” to many. 

“Most of the party members didn’t even know who he was until he was made general secretary (organisation). When Ashok Gehlot would talk, everyone would listen. One knew that you can’t just faff in front of him. He has earned that authority,” an AICC functionary said. “In KC’s case, that’s entirely missing.” 

Another leader said it isn’t just that most people did not know Venugopal, but he, too, “doesn’t know party members like he should”.

“Some days, he would meet people like he is their best buddy. At other times, he would just turn around and say ‘who are you?’ This isn’t becoming of a GS(O). The people who have held this post until now know each state unit of the party inside-out, unlike him,” the leader added.

A state leader and former MP said “the high command has earned the right to be the high command, unlike K.C.”.

“Look at Mukul Wasnik, there isn’t one state of the country he hasn’t been to and worked for. Similarly, V. Narayanasamy, Harish Rawat, all these people have earned their spurs,”  the leader added.  “Ahmed Patel wasn’t such an important figure only because he was close to Sonia Gandhi. It was because he knew every member of the party, across states.”

Also Read: Not young versus old, Congress battle is between two failed guards


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  1. Whatever the analysis till the party in principle decides to abandon communal and castiest politics nothing will improve .

    AIMIM now gets majority of the votes it used to get.

  2. Today Congress is plagued by such leaders. They have no grass root connect. If Congress has to revive and become a meaningful contender in 2024 they need to completely revamp the organisation .

    Is Sonia, Rahul or Priyanka listening? If you can’t do it get out and allow other capable people to handle the party.

  3. TS Darbari – At the national level, the Congress party has been continuing to give the impression that it has only a part-time leadership. Rahul Gandhi’s handling of his role in the party has been eccentric. For all practical purposes, he was the Congress although he resigned the presidentship in 2019, two years after he was elected. He continued his habit of going on picnic at critical junctures. Driven to the wall, 23 well-known leaders of the Congress wrote a letter to the High Command seeking a fulltime President. What a pathetic situation for the Great Congress to be in. The High Command remained too high to bother. This Gandhi was on picnic when elections were taking place in Gujarat. That did not diminish his status because he was Gandhi. The story of non-Gandhis in the Congress is almost forgotten. Sitaram Kesri, president of the Congress before Sonia Gandhi, was dethroned in a publicly humiliating style as Sonia Gandhi took his place. P V Narasimha Rao, another president of the Congress, was pushed out without grace; his dead body was not even allowed inside the party headquarters for people to pay respects. #TS_Darbari #Ts_Darbari_Blog #TS_Darbari_News #Ts_Darbari_Views #Ts_Darbari_Blogger #TS_Darbari_Comments #Ts_Darbari_Opinion #About_TS_Darbari #TS_Darbari_Articles #Politics #Views #Comments #who_is_TS_Darbari #About_TS_Darbari #Who_is_TS_Darbari Who is TS Darbari?
    Mr. TS Darbari is a top management professional, with several years of rich & diversified experience in Corporate Strategy, New Business Development, Sales & Marketing, Commercial Operations, Project Management, Financial Management and Strategic Alliances.

  4. It would see that KC Venugopal is the new Ahmed Patel for The Family. He was, for some time, in charge of Karnataka. He did not get along with the State leaders there too. Probably, he suffers from the disease called “Swollen Head”.

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