New appointments in three Pradesh Congress Committees this past fortnight bear the undeniable stamp of party vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Gandhi, who has been interacting extensively with state leaders of late, has finally fulfilled the promises he made to the youth wing of the party, when he was elected vice president in Jaipur this January. He has given a boost to the young leadership within the party by appointing them as PCC chiefs in crucial states such as Bihar and Himachal Pradesh.
In Himachal Pradesh, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu (48) has been appointed PCC chief. Sukhu had led the state Youth Congress for 10 years from 1998 and the state National Students Union of India for six years from 1989. A two-term legislator, Sukhu lost the 2012 assembly polls.
Despite a Congress government in power in the state, Sukhu faces the challenge of managing a deeply divided party unit ahead of the general elections. Apart from Mandi, the three other Lok Sabha seats in the state are with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The appointment of Ashok Choudhary to head the Congress unit in Bihar, where the party got just 8.3 per cent of the vote in the 2010 assembly election, is a decision taken with the caste factor in mind. Choudhary is a Maha Dalit leader, and his appointment is clearly the Congress’s answer to the coalition of the most depressed Dalit castes forged by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
A former Youth Congress leader and the youngest PCC chief in three decades, Choudhary replaces Mehboob Ali Qaiser, who resigned from the post following the dismal performance of the Congress in the 2010 assembly polls. The Congress has just four MLAs in the 243-member assembly.
Congress insiders say “Choudhary comes with a clean slate” and will effectively have to build the state unit from scratch.
All India Congress Committee incharge of Bihar, Shakeel Ahmed, who is optimistic about the new PCC chief said, “He is young and energetic and has been the minister of state (home) in Bihar. He comes from a Congress family and is respectful of seniors in the party while carrying the youngsters with him. He has a tough job in his hands, and we are confident he will build the party in the state.”
A fortnight back, another Youth Congress leader, Partap Singh Bajwa, was made head of the Punjab PCC. He succeeded Captain Amarinder Singh after the defeat of the Congress in the Punjab polls.
Apart from these appointments, Karnataka, which goes to the polls next month, has had three new committees -- an election strategy committee, a 44-member manifesto committee and a 56-member campaign committee.
It is the appointment of former Union minister C M Ibrahim as head of the election strategy committee which has generated interest.
According to sources, Ibrahim’s appointment was made more with an eye to placate Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who is also the Leader of the Opposition. Both leaders were originally from the Janata Dal-Secular and walked out together and joined the Congress.
Sources say Siddaramaiah, of late, has been at loggerheads with state PCC chief G Parameshwar, and with polls next month, all sections needed to be placated. Ibrahim’s hold over the minority vote, sources say, will also help the party in the May 5 polls.