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Rahul Gandhi’s new adviser is a former JNU student who waved black flags at Manmohan Singh

Sandeep Singh, a native of UP, was elected JNU Student Union chief in 2007. He is now working his AISA roots to give Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra an edge.

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New Delhi: Guess who is Rahul Gandhi’s political adviser nowadays? It’s a young, former comrade from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who had once shown black flags to then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2005.

Sandeep Singh has not been designated the Congress president’s political adviser yet. But he is the one writing his speeches, and is known to have Gandhi’s ears on the issue of alliances too.

So, when he wanted to guide his sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi picked Singh again. Singh has been travelling with Priyanka in the state ever since, and is said to run the show.

No one knows how and when the Congress president developed so much liking for Singh, but Congress sources say he was suddenly spotted moving around Gandhi some time in 2017.

Also read: Priyanka says will contest Lok Sabha polls if Congress wants her to

AISA roots

Singh, who hails from a middle-class family in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, joined JNU after graduating from Allahabad University, where he got acquainted with the All India Students Association (AISA), the student wing of the far-Left Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

Initially a student at JNU’s Hindi department, he soon got himself enrolled in philosophy.

In November 2005, when then prime minister Manmohan Singh visited JNU, Singh led a group of students to wave black flags at him for his government’s “anti-people policies”.

Remembered fondly by his friends for his rustic style and admired for his oratory skills, Singh was elected the president of the JNU Students Union in 2007.

“After leaving JNU, Singh distanced himself from Left politics and became active in the Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal-led movement for Lokpal,” a close aide of Singh told ThePrint.

“But he soon got disillusioned, and this led him towards the Congress,” the aide said. “He became part of the Congress as a speech writer for the party president but learnt the tricks of the trade pretty quickly to become a party strategist,” the aide added.

As he joined the party, Singh apologised for the ‘black flags’ demonstration. However, he has reportedly fallen foul of the Congress’ student wing National Students Union of India (NSUI) for allegedly continuing to promote AISA.

In 2018, the NSUI general secretary in-charge of JNU wrote to the All India Congress Committee (AICC), claiming that Singh was undermining the party’s strength on the campus.

“Sandeep Singh former JNUSU President and AISA activist who is now a member of Rahul Gandhi’s team visits JNU campus and tells them that if they want to join the Congress then don’t be part of NSUI rather join the Left and raise yourself to the higher post in Congress Party [sic],” the general secretary wrote. “This demotivates our party members and activists and weakens our team in JNU.”

Also read: Congress party’s minimum-income scheme for the poor is short on funding details

Turning Left

Singh’s rising star in the Congress has coincided with an evident shift under party president Gandhi — as reported by ThePrint in September last year, the Gandhi scion seems to be increasingly turning to Left-leaning intellectuals for advice while packing his core group with activists who identify with the ideology.

In the recent past, a number of such activists have also joined the lower rungs of the party — for example, on 2 September last year, close to 100 Left-leaning activists, student leaders and theatre personalities joined the Congress in Lucknow.

Congress insiders claim Singh is the brain behind the anti-corporate, pro-poor tilt in Rahul and Priyanka’s speeches and social media posts.

Case in point: During a recent address at the Sindhora Ghat in Varanasi, Priyanka said, “After the Congress government came to power in Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh, farm loans were waived. But under this government, industrialists and businessman are the only ones who are happy.”

The presence of Savitri Bai Phule, a Dalit former MP who has shifted from the BJP to the Congress, by Priyanka’s side during the Ganga Yatra was Singh’s brainchild too, said a party insider, as was the Congress leader’s visit to Dalit rights activist and Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad.

“Sandeep is the speech writer for the Congress president and works as a key strategist too,” said a person familiar with the party’s inner workings.

“Priyanka’s team is still being set up and Sandeep has been asked to help out with the outreach programme and speeches,” the source added. “Sandeep brings with him his oratorical skills and deep knowledge of language and Indian society,” said the aide.

“As a leader of AISA, he was a disciple of ‘Tapas da‘, the mysterious in-charge of the organisation’s JNU unit. He learnt the Marxist lexicon from him and blended it with the grassroots politics of the Hindi heartland,” the insider added.

“He got acquainted with the craft of demagogy and sloganeering in JNU and with AISA. He might be using those skills while writing speeches for Rahul Gandhi and now Priyanka,” he said.

The Congress historically had a Left-of-Centre position, which was most pronounced during the early years of Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership. It was in keeping with this that the Congress nationalised banks and coal mines, “Garibi Hatao” became the Congress’ clarion call.

But the 1990s saw the Congress lean towards the economic Right by setting India on the path to liberalisation. Whether the Congress brass’ recent rhetoric marks the party’s return to its roots, or is just a depiction of Singh’s influence, remains to be seen.

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  1. hahahah frustrated losers of Commies r joining congress n it will be nice to see congress getting finished ….. no doubt raga the dumbo is making stupid speeches like 72000 croress modi gave 45000 crores acres of land …….these have nots have to be eliminated from congress n cpi or else garibi kabhi nahi hategi

  2. hahaha. A party with a hundred years history. And a left leaning student leader influencing party narrative and setting agenda is ridiculous. Congress has always remained centrist and the most pragmatic political party nay movement which always made course corrections and initiated political, economic and welfare measures to carry the nation forward without any major upheaval even while achieving balanced equitable growth which got skewed during 1990 to 2009 due to neo liberal reforms. It lifted crores out of poverty but remained essential jobless growth. 2009 marked course correction to make trickle down effect more pronounced . Thousands join a party and to credit someone who cannot even understand the ideologicl moorings and depth of the party which heralded epochal changes in tune with times for the nation to reach where we are today is an insult to the party. The left especially could not spread its includence except packets not only because of its blunders historical but also because of the fact , whether pre independence or post independence, congress had giant of leaders before whom the left leaders though committed , sincere and revolutinary, cannot stand. congress has always stood for welfare even while making course correction to produce wealth through policy initiatives , which the elite and right derisively call populism. When the right does welfarism it is master stroke and chanakiyan. when congress does it is populism. Congress does not need so called left activists to strengthen its political narrative and on the contrary a dogmatic left activist can learn a lot from the pragmatic centrist congress tested leadership to give shape to one’s idealistic objectives . The author will do well do appreciate these historical facts.

  3. LOL… JNU Commie + AAP guy advising RaGa… no wonder his speeches are a mess…
    God save India is these people come to power… the country will go back to stone age…

  4. Waving black flags at figures of authority is part of student politics, growing up. One does not understand the paranoia it induces, asking people to remove each piece of black clothing when they come for an election meeting. 2. A person who has literary flair, who captures the cadences of speech and thought of rural or small town India – as Prasoon Joshi does, when he is not in hagiographic mode – could be an asset as part of a political team. However, Political Advisor brings to mind a figure like Shri Ahmed Patel, who kept a neophyte politician safe for twenty years. That would be a high bar Shri Sandeep Singh to cross. 3. If the Congress comes to power at the head of a coalition, it cannot afford – rather India can not afford – to persist with Mrs Gandhi’s “ Stray Thoughts “. The world, barring Cuba and North Korea, has moved on.

  5. Rahul and congress is on a steep downward slide and on their way to the Nadir. No way to rise. No aide can really be of any help in anyway to the dull Rahul and priyanka.Rahul to play and Loose. Game congress is over and checkmate is imminent.

  6. Good for him. And Miss PAndey – just goes to show how terrific the spirit of our democracy was and is – you don’t have to be blacklisted just cuz you waved black flags and your disappointment with a political party. Good for Congress and even better for Rahul. Sandeep is brilliant. Take your non-understanding of democratic politics to the shakha, where it belongs.

  7. The nearly 50 years young dynast now wants to back to the past to go forward! I wonder what Manmohan Singh thinks of Shri Rahul Gandhi’s understanding of economics.

  8. If it is wrong choise, let them pay the price for it. Smrti Irani was also once upon a time highly critical of PM Modi, but now very close. Drafting speech, giving inputs are part of political work even PM Modi gets it. However, for PM Modi, Amit Shah and many others in their party don’t need some more one write speech as they just abuse others in election rallies which even 9th class student can also deliver if contains only abuses

  9. If anyone wants a help at this age for his or political journey even after 10 years of UPA rule, then how come the people of this country hand over the charge to these naive children of the dynastic politics….. It also proves that politics can not be genetically comes in to the blood…..

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