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Meet Rahul's new generals for 2014 battle

January 14, 2014 08:40 IST

Meet Rahul's new generals for 2014 battle

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Anita Katyal

With Rahul Gandhi at the helm, the grand old party is all set for a makeover with preference to new and young faces. Here’s a look at Congress’s A-Team

As the Congress begins preparations for a tough Lok Sabha election this April, Team Rahul is gradually being put in place.

After the party’s humiliating defeat in the recent assembly polls, there have been a series of fresh appointments in state units, which all carry Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s imprint.

A generational shift was reflected in the appointment of 36-year-old Union minister Sachin Pilot on Monday as the new president of the Congress’s Rajasthan unit in place of Chandrabhan, who was defeated in the last election. Similarly, 39-year-old Lok Sabha MP Arun Yadav was appointed the party chief in Madhya Pradesh, replacing tribal leader Kantilal Bhuria.

Both these leaders are known to be Rahul’s personal choices. Keen to give an image makeover to the Congress, the Nehru-Gandhi scion has shown a marked preference for new and young faces in the state units.

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Image: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi


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It is expected that the long-awaited reshuffle in the All India Congress Committee will follow the same pattern, establishing Rahul’s complete hold over the organisation.

This was evident in the last reshuffle when a large number of young leaders were brought in as party secretaries. Arun Yadav, who was a minister of state in the United Progressive Alliance government was among them.  

Minister for Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot, son of late Union minister Rajesh Pilot, is said to be close to Rahul.

Arun Yadav’s father Subhash Yadav, who was Digvijay Singh’s deputy when he was chief minister, was well-known backward leader in Madhya Pradesh. Both Pilot and Yadav come armed with a strong political legacy.

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Image: Rahul talks with Sachin Pilot, the newly-appointed Congress chief of the Rajasthan unit


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Last month, Rahul had chosen Arvind Singh Lovely to lead the Delhi Congress unit while Bhupesh Bhagel was selected to head the party unit in Chhattisgarh.

Another young MP -- Ashok Tanwar-- is learnt to be next in line for an appointment as president of the Haryana Congress.

All the new state presidents face the challenging task of getting the party ready for the tough electoral battle ahead, which is less than four months away. It is no easy task as the Congress received a severe drubbing in these states in the last assembly polls.

While the election in Chhattisgarh was a close call, the Congress fared poorly in Rajasthan, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh.

Party cadres here are a demoralised lot and it will take a lot of hard work to enthuse them. This is not going to be easy given the margin of defeat, especially in Delhi and Rajasthan. Worse, the future does not hold much promise either, as it is becoming increasingly clear that the Congress is headed for a stint in the opposition.

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Image: Arvind Singh lovely heads the Delhi unit of the Congress


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While Pilot faces the challenge of gaining acceptability by senior state leaders in Rajasthan, Arun Yadav has to deal with a deeply divided party unit in Madhya Pradesh, which has been carved out by Kamal Nath, Digivay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia.  

Irrespective of the reaction of the old guard, there is no stopping the emergence of young turks in the Congress with Rahul having promised to give a boost to its young leadership.

Last year, Rahul had chosen 48-year-old Sukhvinder Singh Sukku to take charge of the party unit in Himachal Pradesh, while Ashok Choudhary was appointed head of the Bihar Congress. Both have had long stints in the Youth Congress.

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Image: Congress leaders Arun Yadav and Ashok Choudhary head the state units of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar respectively


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The process of a generational shift will also be evident in the selection of candidates for the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Having ushered in a new work culture in the party since his elevation as vice-president last January, Rahul has also made it known that the distribution of tickets will now be based on a fresh formula with greater weightage being given to recommendations of district and state units.

Faced with the challenge posed by the Bharatiya Janata Party and now the Aam Admi Party, the Congress will be forced to field young and new faces in the Lok Sabha polls.  

With Rahul making a concerted effort to usher in changes and revtialise the party, there are lurking doubts whether this effort will pay electoral dividends. The pessimism in the party is all too evident as nobody expects any miracles in the next four months.

Congress leaders privately admit that they are on a losing wicket but keep up their morale by pointing out that the BJP’s scope for growth is also limited.  “Okay we are slipping, but please tell me how is the BJP going to come to power with its limited geographical spread,” is the refrain in the Congress.


Image: The spirit of young Congress cadres has taken a beating after the party's poor performance in the assembly polls
Photographs: Reuters

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