Promotion of some youth leaders may impact politics of the Congress in various states.


New Delhi: As a result of the recent AICC reshuffle, the changes in Rahul Gandhi’s team, including the promotion of some youth leaders, may impact the politics of the Congress in various states.

On the face of it, everything seems to be normal, but indications suggest that all is not well. The infighting may increase in states such as Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Assam, Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra and Kerala. Most of these states are going to polls in the next few years.

With younger leaders having been given key organisational responsibilities in the reshuffle, the message has been given to the old guards that “Team Rahul”, comprising younger generation politicians, will rule the roost in future. However, appointments at secretary, join secretary and departmental levels have yet to be made.

AICC general secretaries Randeep Singh Surjewala, K.C. Venugopal and Ajay Maken are the fastest growing leaders among all. Mukul Wasnik is the only leader from the older generation. In fact, Wasnik has set the record of being AICC general secretary for a long period of time. He has also been included in the core committee. Wasnik keeps himself away from politics of home state Maharashtra and remains engaged in political affairs in Delhi.

But Surjewala, Venugopal and Maken have interest in the politics of their home states, and they create an impact on the political affairs of their respective states as well. All of them could also be strong contenders for the post of Chief Minister in their respective states in the future.

Elections in Delhi are far away and Congress is struggling to regain its support base here. Maken will not take interest in Delhi for now. A former Delhi minister, Maken may be observing enviable growth of his junior Surjewala on the political trajectory of the Congress. Surjewala got such a political height in the party, struggling his way through students’ union and Youth Congress politics. He is also said to be emerging as a political advisor to Rahul Gandhi in some way.

He may be active in Delhi’s political affairs, but he is keeping his eyes focused on his political future in his home state Haryana as well. Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is such a leader whom Congress cannot ignore in the state. He is promoting his son Deepender Singh Hooda. Therefore, Hooda and Surjewala are the two factions actively dominating the Congress politics in Haryana. However, Haryana PCC president Selja Kumari is also asserting herself for the political space despite the two big factions seeking to gobble up most of it. Other smaller leaders are invisible in the fight in Haryana. Rahul Gandhi has given Vivek Bansal the responsibility of uniting these heavyweights. The question is whether Bansal would be able to ensure unity between the warring camps of Haryana. The politics of Haryana has been a headache for Rahul Gandhi, and will remain so.

Another big leader is K.C. Venugopal who comes from Kerala. Rahul Gandhi trusts him the most. Rahul Gandhi did not even listen to his mother who wanted a Hindi speaking senior leader for the post of general secretary. Rahul Gandhi insisted on Venugopal’s name. Venugopal is in Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan quota. But his interest is in the politics of Kerala.

Now, it is being said that Venugopal may be sent to Kerala during elections next year. But former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy will not forgo his claim easily. Chandy has been engaged in organisational affairs in Delhi after being appointed general secretary.

Another senior leader is Harish Rawat, who was Assam in-charge, but now he has been given the charge of Punjab. His interest is also in the politics of Uttarakhand as he eyes the top post there if the Congress forms the government after elections in the hill state. He has set up his own system in Uttarakhand which is said to be parallel to the Congress’ official functioning. Rawat is playing the role of opposition by staging dharna and making whirlwind tours of the state. Uttarakhand has to go to polls after one-and-a-half years, but groupism is at its peak there.

Devendra Yadav has been made in-charge of Uttarakhand, but has no organisational experience. If the situation continues to be like this, then AAP will take advantage of Congress’ weaknesses. Harish Rawat has nothing much to do in Punjab as Rahul Gandhi has left everything to Captain Amarinder Singh. Rahul Gandhi’s message is clear that CMs in the Congress-ruled states will be given a free hand. This is the reason why Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Rajasthan CMs are working freely without bothering about any other leaders. Kamal Nath is the actual leader of the Congress in MP till the byelections.

That is why leaders like Navjot Singh Sidhu are forced to play second fiddle in Punjab. Former Punjab Congress chief, Pratap Singh Bajwa has also been sidelined. There has been speculation, at regular intervals, about Sidhu joining AAP. Both Bajwa and Sidhu will be active once elections draw near in Punjab. If SAD breaks alliance with NDA, then BJP will go it alone in Punjab. This will open the door for several disgruntled Congress leaders.

Rahul Gandhi has made Jitendra Singh in-charge of Assam where Congress has high political expectations. But Jitendra Singh has been unsuccessful in Odisha. The Gogoi family is dominating the Congress politics in Assam, which has led to massive infighting. It will also be interesting to see how Randeep Singh Surjewala manages to strike a balance between camps led by Mallikarjuna Kharge and by Siddaramaiah in Karnataka. Similar is the case with Maharashtra and Odisha where AICC appointed leaders will have a challenge to ensure unity among the stalwarts of the Congress. What is also to be seen is whether Rahul Gandhi’s experiment in the organisation makes the Congress or breaks it.