Will Rahul Gandhi go for a senior leader or someone junior?


New Delhi: Who will be the chairman of the Congress’ media department? This is the million-dollar question which even interim party boss Sonia Gandhi has been unable to answer. Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has to decide who will head the communication department of AICC.

That Rahul Gandhi might appoint some less experienced person on this post is the concern being expressed by the senior leaders. Sources told The Sunday Guardian that younger leaders close to Rahul Gandhi are insistent on someone from among them being given this responsibility. So, the suspense continues over who will head the AICC media cell. Will Rahul Gandhi go for a senior leader or a younger one?

When Sonia Gandhi was the party’s full-time president, the AICC communication department was powerful and active. Experienced leaders such as Janardan Dwivedi, Ambika Soni, Girija Vyas and Veerappa Moily were at the helm of this department. The media cell under these leaders used to be quite active whether the party was in power or in Opposition. But after Rahul Gandhi became party boss, the media department got involved in activities aimed only at building its own image rather than the party’s. And even today when the Gandhi scion is not party chief, the media cell continues to be so.

Around 30 national spokespersons were appointed in the party. Even more number of panellists of TV channels were given responsibility for putting across Congress’ views on different issues. But only the media cell boss or some select spokespersons gets a chance to speak on behalf of the party. Seniors like Kapil Sibal, P. Chidambaram, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Manish Tewari occasionally get a chance to speak. But what they feel bad about is that every time they say something, a separate statement is issued. It has become routine to hold three to four press conferences in just one day, which suggests lack of coordination in the media cell.

This is because less experienced leaders were adjusted in the communication department ever since Congress is out of power. After becoming party vice president, Rahul Gandhi wanted a youth leader to be media cell in-charge in 2013, with the result that Ajay Maken got the post. Maken accommodated many from his Delhi team in the cell. By virtue of being close to Rahul Gandhi, Randeep Singh Surjewala got an entry into the media cell. Randeep Surjewala adopted an aggressive strategy using the opportunity and became an effective and impressive spokesperson. As a result, when Maken was given the post of Delhi PCC chief, Rahul Gandhi appointed Randeep Surjewala in charge of the media department in 2015.

After this, several changes happened in the media cell. Young politicians of the party were adjusted in the cell. Randeep Surjewala used to take the line of Rahul Gandhi on all the issues from Rafale to everything. Surjewala succeeded in consolidating his position in the party, but groupism increased in the media cell. Several spokespersons have left Congress. After Congress’ massive defeat in 2014 and 2015, the media cell came under attack. Surjewala sent his resignation to Sonia Gandhi, which was not accepted. He then got promoted as AICC general secretary by virtue of being close to the Gandhi scion.

Pranav Jha, who is from Maken’s camp and is also a less experienced guy, is secretary in charge of the communication department. Appointing a new head was not easy for Rahul Gandhi due to factionalism. The Chidambaram camp is lobbying for Supriya Shrinate, while the Randeep Surjewala camp wants Pawan Khera to be chairman of the media department. Both are young, but they are less experienced than several other spokespersons. Manish Tewari’s name is also doing the rounds.

But like his mother Sonia, Rahul Gandhi continues to keep decisions pending. This is the reason why Congress has been weakened. Changes have been made at the higher level, but appointments have yet to be made at the secretary level.  Like the media department, farmers’ cell, tribal wing and OBC department are lying vacant.