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Rahul's push for young leaders faces stiff opposition

December 21, 2013 10:13 IST

State leaders have emerged as the biggest road block for Congress Vice president Rahul Gandhi who is trying to give young leaders bigger responsibilities, says Renu Mittal

Minister of Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot leading the race for presidentship of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, say highly placed sources in the All Indian Congress Committee.

The young and charismatic Sachin Pilot is Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s choice for the top party post in the state where the Congress received a huge drubbing at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party during the state assembly elections.

But sources also say that senior Rajasthan leader C P Joshi is opposed to the candidature of Sachin Pilot and has forwarded the name of the Jat Minister Lal Chand Kataria as the most suitable candidate to replace Chandrabhan, who resigned following the party’s debacle.

Both Chandrabhan and Kataria are Jats and Joshi has advanced the logic that it is time to win back the community, as they had deserted the party in large numbers as a result of their antipathy to former chief minister Ashok Gehlot. Pilot is a Gurjar. 

C P Joshi is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi and Joshi was specially picked to become a general secretary in the AICC, and to assist Rahul in organisational work.

Rahul is working on bringing about a generational change in the Congress party and its state units. Brushing aside all opposition from Congress leader Ajit Jogi and his camp, Rahul installed Lakeshwar Bagel as the party president in the state. Bagel, who is in his early 50’s, won against all opposition from within his party.

Sources say that Rahul regards Sachin not as a Gujjar leader, but as a young, charismatic leader who can connect with the youth. It is learnt that Sonia Gandhi also regards him highly. He was promoted from a minister of state to one with independent charge and is handling corporate affairs.

Another young minister of state who was promoted and given independent charge of the crucial power ministry was Jyotiraditya Scindia. He was made campaign committee chairman of the Madhya Pradesh elections and was almost projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate despite stiff opposition from the senior guard like Digvijaya Singh, who is known to be against Scindia.

In Haryana, a similar story is being played out. Rahul Gandhi has zeroed in on Ashok Tanwar a young Dalit leader and MP from Haryana as the next PCC president of the state. But Tanwar is facing stiff and absolute opposition from a number of Haryana leaders, so much so that the announcement of his name has been delayed.

It is learnt that Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda met Sonia Gandhi and opposed the decision saying that Tanwar is not acceptable. He wants Mulana who has been PCC president for the last six years -- seen as a rubber stamp of the chief minister -- to continue. Hooda’s objections centre on his own son Deepender Hooda who would have to report to Tanwar and he feels it would affect his son’s political career.

Union Minister Selja Kumari also met Sonia Gandhi and opposed the name of Tanwar, possibly because they belong to the same caste. Randeep Singh Surjewala, dislikes Tanwar intensely and is willing to go the extra mile to stop him.

With word out all that Tanwar is Rahul Gandhi’s nominee, any move to replace him would put a question mark over Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.

For Rahul Gandhi, state leaders have emerged as the biggest road blocks while taking decisions regarding their states. This would become obvious as he works on bringing about changes in the party to bring in younger leaders.

Former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had brought in Ahmed Patel as PCC president of Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot as PCC president of Rajasthan, Tariq Anwar in Bihar, Digvijaya Singh in Madhya Pradesh and Chaudhary Birender Singh in Haryana when he took over the Congress. They were all young -- in their 40's -- and later emerged as the leaders of the party.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi