Rahul Gandhi sets about rebuilding the Congress in Gujarat with a young team in charge
Encouraged by the close run his party gave the BJP in the Gujarat assembly polls in December last year, Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s mission, of late, appears to be to rebuild the party in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, ahead of next year’s general elections. Gujarat had given the BJP all its 26 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.
That most state Congress heavyweights, such as Shaktisinh Gohil, former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel’s son Siddharth Patel and former Union minister Tushar Amarsinh Chaudhary, lost the assembly polls is possibly making Rahul’s task easier. It has allowed him to appoint younger leaders in key positions, which he has long been advocating. Forty-two-year-old Amit Chavda, a dynamic OBC leader, has been picked to replace Bharatsinh Solanki as the Congress’s state president. Paresh Dhanani, 41, who won the Amreli assembly seat against the BJP’s Bavkubhai Undhad, has been appointed Congress Legislature Party (CLP) chief and Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly.
Last month, Rahul made 43-yearold Raju Satav AICC secretary in charge of Gujarat. Satav represents the Hingoli Lok Sabha seat from Maharashtra and is known to be a very vocal Congress leader in Parliament. He is also an ardent supporter of Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, backing the NBA’s campaign against raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 138 metres.
Satav, who’s viewed as a Rahul confidant, had last year written to Patkar describing the Narmada dam project as a violation of human rights in the garb of development. He even posted a copy of his letter on Twitter. The tweet came back to haunt him after his appointment and was deleted. The BJP’s vociferous tirade denouncing Satav and the Congress of being “anti-Narmada” and “anti-Gujarat”, though, did not prevent Dhanani from coming out in support of Patkar. He said it was the pressure mounted by Patkar that had ensured proper rehabilitation of dam oustees, enabling the government to raise the dam’s height.
NEW LOOK Rahul Gandhi and Amit Chavda (right) during the Gujarat poll campaign