The word ‘change’ is the most talked-about word among Congressmparty members these days. The first question any party worker and leader will ask after meeting you is “what is happening”, “Whose name is being considered and who will be dropped”.
Those holding some crucial posts for long, appear to be a worried lot. It is very clear that the Congress is passing through a phase of change with Sonia Gandhi giving way to Rahul Gandhi. New Congress president Rahul minces no word in saying that “change is now”.
In his concluding address at the party’s 84th plenary session held recently in Delhi, Rahul not only conveyed this but also spelled out what he meant by change. “We need to change the organisation and let me tell you how we will change the organisation. Our workers who are sitting at the back, they have the energy and the strength to change the nation but we have a wall between these workers and our leaders. My first job is to break down this wall. We have to break this wall, not with anger but with love and with respect for our seniors” are the words of Rahul Gandhi.
After the plenary, a few changes have already taken place and every appointment gives out the message that Rahul Gandhi has a clear picture in his mind of what kind of Congress party he is looking for in future. The Congress president is giving more responsibility to young people while not compromising on the experience of seniors.
Those who have been given the charge of states are a relatively younger lot and have won several elections. These leaders enjoy good connect with grassroot level party workers. Though the base for any appointment appears to be their hard work, aggression is another feature that is also being kept in mind. Says a Congressman, in all these states the party needs aggression and these leaders are very aggressive
“If you see the new appointments, then you will find that these people are in the age group of around 50 and they have won several elections. So, it appears that Rahul Gandhi wants to hand over control of the party to new people but not to the extremely new ones. He wants change without compromising on experience,” says a senior party functionary.
Recently Shaktisinh Gohil, who was at the forefront of the Congress campaign in the Gujarat assembly elections, has been given charge of the crucial state of Bihar. Earlier, former Union Minister Dr CP Joshi, who is much older than Gohil, was in-charge of the state. Similarly, former Union Minister Jitender Singh, a young and energetic leader, was given charge of Odisha and he took over from veteran BK Hariprasad. MP Rajeev Satav has been given charge of Gujarat, taking over from Ashok Gehlot. Ambika Soni, another senior member, was replaced by Anugrah Narayan Singh as Uttarakhand in-charge.
On these appointments, one of the state leaders said, “Those who have been given the charge of states are a relatively younger lot and have won several elections.” He went on to say that “these leaders enjoy a good connect with grassroot level party workers”. Though the base for any appointment appears to be the person’s hard work, aggression is also being kept in mind while assigning the responsibility. Another Congressman says, “In all these states like Bihar, Gujarat and Odisha, the party needs aggression and the new leaders appointed are very aggressive”.
Rahul has given out a very clear message that no person with any baggage will be accommodated and people with clean track records will be entrusted with more responsibility. Rahul wants his team to be technology savvy and comfortable in handling social media operations by themselves.
However the Congress president is moving ahead very cautiously as he doesn’t want to antagonise the seniors, lest he be deprived of their vast experience. Another Congressman says that it is not that Rahul has gone for a complete overhaul; he is just preparing a second line of leadership but not at the cost of the seniors. Chandan Yadav was given charge of Chhattisgarh which was earlier being looked after by Kamleshwar Patel, and Yashomati Thakur was asked to oversee the crucial state of Karnataka with KC Venugopal. Mahender Joshi was replaced by Lalji Desai as the Chief Organiser of the Congress Seva Dal. All these appointments say that a second line of leadership is being readied.
To use the experience of the senior leaders, Ashok Gehlot has been given the responsibility of organisation and training which was earlier held by veteran Janardan Dwivedi. While giving this crucial responsibility to Ashok Gehlot, Rahul kept in mind the former’s vast working experience in the party as he had been in-charge of crucial states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, apart from governing Rajasthan.
“In all meetings of political organisations, you will not find an empty stage (pointing towards stage) like this. Come all youths of India who are in the Congress and outside, I have this stage empty for you. I will fill this stage with youths like you. I will drag you from there to this stage,” said Rahul in his last speech at the plenary. The message of change was very loud and clear as the show was conducted by the young brigade. The appointments also show that steering of the various units of the organisation is being handed over to new ones. The change is visible.