Rahul is looking to bring new leadership in the state units that can bring in the young generation back into the party fold and revive its sagging image and morale. Renu Mittal reports
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has begun the process of affecting a general change within the party and the process has begun with the state units.
In the wake of the party’s debilitating defeat in the assembly elections and just months before the Lok Sabha polls, Rahul has appointed Sachin Pilot as the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee President, reducing the party’s leadership age by at least 30 years.
Pilot’s appointment comes in the wake of Dr Chandrabhan’s resignation from the PCC presidentship after the party’s defeat in Rajasthan.
Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, Arun Yadav, a Lok Sabha MP and an AICC secretary has been appointed as the state president. It is likely that Ashok Tanwar would be appointed the Haryana PCC President. In Delhi, Arvind Singh Lovely has been appointed the PCC president in place of Jai Prakash Aggarwal.
Rahul is focusing on young leaders and those who have been elected directly by the people either in the Lok Sabha or the assembly.
It is learnt that the party leadership would shortly take a decision on whether all the general secretaries in the AICC and the PCC presidents would continue in their posts if they contest the elections or whether they would have to choose between fighting elections and keeping an important party post.
It is learnt that just a few days after the party’s defeat in the assembly elections, some general secretaries like Gurudas Kamath suggested to Congress president Sonia Gandhi that they should either contest the elections or remain general secretaries and monitor the elections.
In the case of Sachin Pilot, the leadership would also decide whether he will continue as Union minister or resign and focus full time on the party.
On Wednesday, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Gurudas Kamath will be in Jaipur to hold a meeting of the Congress legislature party to elect its new leader in place of former chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
Gehlot is learnt to have conveyed to the leadership that he would not be interested in being re-appointed as the CLP leader. Sources say that there was no chance of his being elected as the CLP leader since Rahul is looking to give the Rajasthan state unit a completely new leadership which can bring in the young generation back into the party fold and revive its sagging image and morale.
Sachin Pilot would take charge of the PCC presidentship on January 21 in Jaipur after which the meeting of the Pradesh Election Committee would be held.
The screening committees set up by the Congress would meet January 27-31 and finalise their recommendations based on the panels submitted by the PECs with one or more names for every seat.
It is learnt that the central election committee would meet from February 1 to 7 and clear most of the names for the coming Lok Sabha polls.
Rahul has made it clear that most of names would be announced early and before the announcement of the election dates by the Election Commission.
Sources say that the final decision on which general secretary would remain and who would go would be taken after the 17th AICC meeting and before the PECs begin to meet on January 21.
A general secretary who is keen to contest the elections said that it does not matter if the changes are affected at this stage since most of the data for the Lok Sabha polls has been collated and much of the ground work has been done.
He said that it is the PCC president and the CLP leader who would be running the election campaign in the states and the general secretaries merely provide the logistical support from Delhi.
36-year-old Sachin Pilot who has been an MP for 10 years is probably the youngest PCC president.
He said that they need to move away from Jaipur and go right back to the grassroots and the basics to reach out to the people.
Pilot said that he would approach all the senior leaders for their support and hold their hand in bid to ensure that he takes everyone along.
Except for the media at his residence, there were no Rajasthan leaders or workers to greet the new president though Pilot did say he received telephone calls from senior leaders on his appointment but he did not spell out who they were.
With a number of senior and established leaders opposing his candidature, he may find the going a bit tough particularly since even the caste equations do not work in his favour in the state since he is a ‘gujjar’.
But if he can project himself as a youth icon, and keep his caste credentials in the background and to the minimum, he may have a chance to revive his party, which has suffered its worst defeat ever by getting only 21 seats in the Vidhan Sabha.
The Congress has 20 MPs from Rajasthan with Sachin Pilot the MP from Ajmer. It now looks unlikely that he will contest from Ajmer, where the going is more than tough for him.