47-year-old party chief announces some members of his new team, replacing several of the old guard with younger faces like Rajiv Satav and Jitendra Singh.
New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has begun revamping the party, just 11 days after announcing at the plenary session in the capital that he would take hard decisions.
Gandhi had indicated that younger leaders would get a chance in his new team at the cost of the Congress old guard, and so it has proved to be, right from the central leadership to the states.
All clear for Pilot to take off
For example, in one fell swoop, the Gandhi scion has cleared the decks for the 40-year-old Sachin Pilot to be the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan, by putting former CM Ashok Gehlot in charge of organisation and training, replacing the 72-year-old Janardan Dwivedi.
Gehlot, 66, was the general secretary in charge of Gujarat where the party performed creditably to win 80 seats in the assembly polls in December. This had made his clout grow, leading to suggestions that he should once again be CM candidate instead of Pilot, the Rajasthan Congress chief. But now, it’s clear that Pilot will be the man to lead the party in this year’s assembly polls.
Other ‘Team Rahul’ members given responsibility
Gehlot’s replacement as Gujarat in-charge is Rajiv Satav, the 43-year-old MP from Hingoli in Maharashtra. Satav is close to the party president, and has been groomed by him. The party did really well in the areas Satav was looking after in Gujarat, making him eligible for this promotion.
B.K. Hariprasad, the 63-year-old general secretary in-charge of Odisha, has been replaced by another young leader close to Gandhi – former union minister Jitendra Singh, the ex-MP from Alwar.
Emphasis on the grassroots
Lalji Desai has replaced Mahesh Joshi as the chief of the Congress Seva Dal, the party’s grassroots organisation. Desai is a well-known activist who worked for farmers’ land rights in the Ahmedabad, Surendranagar and Mehsana districts of Gujarat. He joined the Congress in 2014, and in the recent elections, he accompanied Gandhi on several tours around the state.
By making a farmers’ rights activist chief of the moribund Seva Dal, Gandhi is sending a message that grassroots and farmers will be given priority in the organisation before the 2019 elections, as the party looks to build itself back up after successive election debacles.
The road ahead
In the future, the likes of C.P. Joshi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and other seniors are expected to be replaced. Gandhi has not announced a full-fledged Congress Working Committee as he was authorised by the party plenary to choose his own team.
But since state in-charges automatically become part of the CWC, a younger Congress ‘high command’ does seem to be taking shape under the 47-year-old Gandhi scion.