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Big role likely for Rahul Gandhi to overhaul party organisation

Kavita Chowdhury/New Delhi 04 Nov 12 | 12:49 AM

Bilha in Chhattisgarh was the site of much bad blood this week when supporters of former Congress chief minister Ajit Jogi and All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary incharge of the state B K Hariprasad clashed publicly. Reports suggest it was reduced to a slanging match between the two senior leaders who do not see eye to eye. It is organisational challenges like these that need to be addressed in the massive AICC reshuffle which is next on the agenda, now that the Cabinet rejig is over. The organisational rejig will also mark the elevation of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from a general secretary to a virtually second in command of the party after his mother, Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

While it is not yet clear what the nomenclature of his post will be, Congress sources confirm RG, as (Rahul Gandhi) is known in party circles, will have all general secretaries, including state incharges, reporting to him. “In that way, RG will have a hand on the pulse of Congress’ activities across the country," said a party insider. “After all, it is no secret that RG will be leading the party into the next general elections in 2014," he added.

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Media incharge Janardhan Dwivedi even officially stated this last week, when asked if RG would be named working president or vice president of the party.

As it is, RG, who started off as the general secretary incharge of Youth Congress and NSUI, has now expanded his role and has been extensively touring the country. His engagements nowadays generally include only one odd programme pertaining to the youth wing of the party while the majority of engagements involve the pradesh Congress committees and the party cadre.

Despite the speculation that several young MPs close to Rahul Gandhi like Ashok Tanwar, Meenakshi Natrajan and Manicka Tagore would make their debut in the council of ministers, the fact that they were not included, says a general secretary, only goes to show that RG is expected to give important roles to his close aides within the party.

“The fact that RG did not take up a government role even when the PM had requested him several times hints that he wants to build the party and strengthen it in the run up to the crucial state polls and the 2014 general elections. So, he needs trusted aides to work for him."

Already, R P N Singh, Jitin Prasad, Jitendra Singh have been included in the Uttar Pradesh organisational rehaul effected by Rahul Gandhi. Reports indicate the crucial role of UP incharge could go to Congress old hand Madhusudan Mistry. A change of treasurer, present incumbent being Motilal Vohra, could also be on the cards.

The Chhattisgarh incident is not an isolated one, as the Congress is ridden with factionalism in several states leading to an erosion of the party organisation and a consequent weakening of party presence in the state. In Karnataka, infighting within the party is posing a challenge for the Congress, which is hoping to make a comeback in 2014 Assembly polls. The PCC chief, G Parameshwar, for instance, finds no support from within the ranks. The challenge in the AICC reshuffle would be to harmoniously balance the choice of AICC general secretary and PCC chief as well as keep in mind caste, tribal and regional sentiments.

The party rejig will also involve a reassignment of Pradesh Congress Committee president posts especially in states that are due for polls in 2013 and 2014.

The rehaul of the organisational structure was slated to coincide with the UPA Cabinet reshuffle, as several senior ministers, including the then I&B minister Ambika Soni, resigned so that they could be utilised for party work. Soni, a long time organisational hand dating back to the times she was mentored by the late Sanjay Gandhi, is all set to be assigned a bigger role in the party and that could even be as political secretary to the Congress president. Party insiders are speculating about what role would the present incumbent, Ahmed Patel, a close Gandhi aide, will then play. Mukul Wasnik, who resigned from the Union Cabinet and is at present the general secretary incharge of Rajasthan is slated for additional party responsibilities.

Senior Congress leaders have been lamenting the lack of suitable organisational hands to man vital party posts. Some, like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, are considered good party leaders but are not available for Central roles just at present.

With the Cabinet reshuffle under its belt, the Congress is all set to tighten the loose ends in the party organisation.

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