Congress old guard retains control, juniors to work as aides

Congress old guard retains control, juniors to work as aides

By AREEBA FALAK | New Delhi | 22 July, 2017
Congress, uniform party line, Communication Strategy Group, old guard, Rahul Gandhi, Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Chinese envoy
The party has assigned 20 young leaders as secretaries to assist seniors in managing party affairs in states.

The Congress’ failure to present a “uniform party line” in the public domain on various recent issues prompted Congress president Sonia Gandhi last week to constitute a new, high-powered Communication Strategy Group, comprising the “old guard”, to restructure the party’s media strategy. The move has also given the signal that the “younger force in Congress”, accompanying Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, will not yet be given the front-stage.

While the responsibility to maintain proper communication between the party and the people has been handed over to senior Congress leaders—including leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, P. Chidambaram, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jairam Ramesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sushmita Dev—young Congress leaders are expected to act as aides in a few positions, sources said. The Congress has assigned 20 young leaders as secretaries to assist the seniors in managing party affairs in states. While a big state will have 4-5 secretaries to assist a general secretary or an in-charge, at least two young leaders will manage a small state, the sources said.

The need to assign responsibility for a “uniform” media communication strategy to senior leaders was triggered after the party came under fire for its changing stance on recent issues like Balochistan or about Rahul Gandhi’s meeting the Chinese envoy. According to some media reports, Rahul Gandhi had no idea that his party members had denied any such meeting taking place with the Chinese envoy.

The situation brought to light the lack of communication between the high command and the Congress members, leading to different statements in the public domain. Filling the loophole, the new communication group is expected to bring consistency in the media statements of various members on important issues. The group’s leaders will hold daily meetings and also brief the media on current issues. It is expected that a few more people will be added to the group in the coming days.

The Congress is trying to restructure itself and has significantly re-appointed senior leaders in key roles. While some party members say that they are ready for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as Congress president, dissent in Gujarat state Congress that led to cross-voting in the Presidential elections, gives a different signal. Apart from providing feedback to make basic organisational changes in the aftermath of a string of lost elections in various states, Rahul Gandhi has earned a bad name for his frequent vacations in the last one year.

Unlike its age-old practice of giving multiple charges to a single general secretary, now the party has decided that a general secretary or any functionary in the Congress will no longer hold the charge of multiple states. Instead, the functionary will be given the responsibility of just one state with a strict directive to focus on reviving and strengthening the party in that area. These basic changes in the party’s organisational restructuring process were devised following feedback received by Rahul Gandhi that a general secretary or any other office bearer is unable to concentrate on one state in view of manifold responsibilities. As a result, the Congress has been losing elections in state after state and its rank and cadre have continued to shrink due to exodus to other political parties.

 

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