With Kharge from Karnataka as Congress chief, voices, including those who are a part of ‘team Rahul’, have become stronger.

 

NEW DELHI: With the Karnataka-based Mallikarjun Kharge becoming the Congress president, prominent voices within the party, including those who are a part of “team Rahul”, are arguing for giving representation in the topmost party hierarchy to leaders from the Hindi belt that comprises North, East, and Central parts of India. These prominent voices believe this was a necessary step to perform well in these regions, which starts from Madhya Pradesh and goes all the way to Delhi, if the party has to mount a serious challenge to the BJP in 2024 elections.
In 2014, the BJP won 190 of the 225 Lok Sabha seats in the 10 states that comprise the Hindi belt. In 2019, this figure was 177. Party General Secretary (in-charge of Organisation) K.C. Venugopal, who has been in the position since January 2019, also traces his political roots to Kerala, another state like Karnataka, which is situated in South India. After the election of Kharge and amidst reports that Venugopal will be replaced because of the expected churnings within the organization, party leaders that represent the “Southern lobby” in the Congress are pushing for the appointment of Revanth Reddy, the party Lok Sabha MP from Malkajgiri, Telangana, as a possible replacement to Venugopal.
Before Venugopal, Gehlot served as the GS Organization from March 2018. Gehlot was preceded by the Chitrakoot-born Janardhan Dwivedi, who held the post for more than two decades and played a key role in formulating and suggesting policies that were related to the Hindi belt states and which also coincided with the party coming to power in 2004 and 2009.
This discussion, of giving Hindi belt leaders more prominence, among the internal party circles, has gained more steam after two “Hindi” state leaders, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashik Gehlot and former Madhya Pradesh CM and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Digvijaya Singh, could not contest for the post of the party president for different reasons. While Gehlot, who was the original choice of the party high command comprising Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, had to back out on the direction of the leadership, Singh had put his hat in the ring after Gehlot’s “revolt’ in Rajasthan that caused a furore among the leadership.
Singh, however, at the last moment decided to withdraw from the contest amidst speculation that the Hindus wanted Kharge to be their nominee. Of the 10 general secretaries the party has, there is no one from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, or Jharkhand or which are counted as among the core “Hindi belt states” comprising 10 states that also have Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana in the list. Rahul Gandhi, whose political playground was earlier in Uttar Pradesh, too, is now more active in Kerala.
Oomen Chandy, Venugopal, and Jairam Ramesh are among the general secretaries and they have more hold and knowledge of the political manoeuvring taking place in South India rather than in the Hindi belt states. “We are a pan-India party and have to remain that way. It should not be seen as an organization that is loaded with representatives from one particular region. Right now, with the actions being taken and appointments being suggested, we will lose our voter base in Hindi states even more,” a member of team Rahul told The Sunday Guardian.