Ahmed Is RaGa’s Bhai Too!

Ahmed Pa­tel has shown that like So­nia Gandhi he is Rahul Gandhi’s pre­ferred choice too

The Day After - - CONTENT - By Asit Manohar

The more things change in In­dia’s old­est po­lit­i­cal party, the more they re­main the same. The rea­son we be­gan this piece with a hoary old cliché is that ev­ery few weeks, Rahul Gandhi’s Congress strikes a nearer re­sem­blance to the one his mother, So­nia Gandhi, led, with Gen­er­a­tion Next not get­ting a look in — this when the “younger lot” av­er­ages about 50.

Re­cent ap­point­ments in the Congress Work­ing Com­mit­tee (CWC) sig­nal yet another or­ga­ni­za­tional shift in the grand old party. The most no­table among them was the re-ap­point­ment of Ahmed Pa­tel as the party trea­surer, 18 years af­ter he last held the post. The an­nounce­ment that came on his birth­day also comes ahead of a cru­cial elec­tion year with the party bat­tling dwin­dling funds. Pa­tel, who has been a long­time aide of UPA chair­per­son So­nia Gandhi, re­places Moti­lal Vora, who has been ap­pointed as gen­eral sec­re­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion, a new post.

The party also made a slew of other ap­point­ments on the same day; se­nior leader and close Gandhi fam­ily aide Anand Sharma re­placed Dr Karan Singh as the party’s for­eign af­fairs head. Party sources said that Dr Singh had in­di­cated at re­tir­ing from ac­tive pol­i­tics. Apart from that, the party re­placed former North­east in-charge CP Joshi with former Goa CM Luiz­inho Faleiro, who had held the post ear­lier in 2013 and 2015. Joshi’s re­place­ment does not come as a sur­prise with the Congress los­ing sev­eral states to the BJP dur­ing his time as NE in-charge. The Congress also an­nounced that former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Ku­mar will be a per­ma­nent ap­pointee to the Cen­tral Work­ing Com­mit­tee, tak­ing the num­ber of per­ma­nent ap­pointees to 20. Cur­rently, the CWC has 51 mem­bers.

While the ap­point­ment puts to rest whis­pers of a rift be­tween Pa­tel and Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi, it will be a huge task for Pa­tel with four states go­ing to polls this year alone — Ra­jasthan, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Mad­hya Pradesh and Mi­zo­ram — and the Lok Sabha elec­tions loom­ing large in 2019.Pa­tel’s ap­point­ment is a sig­nal of two things: the Congress party has a mega cri­sis of funds while the BJP is Asia’s rich­est party as the coun­try heads to­wards the elec­tions in Ra­jasthan, Mad­hya Pradesh and Ch­hat­tis­garh — states where the Congress fan­cies it has a se­ri­ous chance in a bi-po­lar con­test with the BJP ahead of the big fi­nale in 2019. The other takeaway from Pa­tel’s new po­si­tion is that he is as in­dis­pens­able to Rahul Gandhi as he was to So­nia.

A host of lead­ers were hop­ing to be “RG’s AP” but Rahul Gandhi is­sued the ap­point­ment let­ter on Pa­tel’s birth­day, and the markedly low-pro­file back­room aide of the Gandhi’s tri­umphed in the quiet but as­sid­u­ous style char­ac­ter­is­tic of him.

In the dur­bari style sim­i­larly char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Congress, a host of whis­pers had

been claim­ing that Rahul Gandhi did not get along with his mother’s clos­est aide and was fed up with the old guard. Gandhi Ju­nior was ini­tially wary of Pa­tel but his re­elec­tion to the Ra­jya Sabha from Gu­jarat in Au­gust last year, which saw Pa­tel de­feat­ing the ul­ti­mate elec­tion strate­gist, Amit Shah, es­tab­lished his cre­den­tials as one of the Congress’ top tac­ti­cians.

Other ap­point­ments made by Gandhi to­day also saw Team So­nia get all the prizes. 73-year-old Meira Ku­mar was made a per­ma­nent in­vi­tee to the pow­er­ful Congress Work­ing Com­mit­tee; 65-year-old Anand Sharma was made the chief of the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, replacing 87year-old Karan Singh.

So what do these ap­point­ments mean? Clearly, nei­ther So­nia nor Rahul Gandhi seems to be com­fort­able giv­ing lead­ers of his own gen­er­a­tion po­si­tions of po­lit­i­cal au­thor­ity.

Even the “Young Turks” groomed as min­is­ters in the Man­mo­han Singh gov­ern­ment lan­guish in a sort of limbo. While Sachin Pi­lot has been ap­pointed the Congress chief in Ra­jasthan, he has not been made the Chief Min­is­te­rial can­di­date with his se­nior, Ashok Gehlot, now a close Gandhi aide, were much in the run­ning.

The same sit­u­a­tion pre­vails in Mad­hya Pradesh where Ka­mal Nath, 71, has been made state chief while Jy­oti­ra­ditya Scin­dia, 47, re­mains in sus­pense over what his role will be. Digvi­jaya Singh, former Chief Min­is­ter, has loftily an­nounced he doesn’t want to be con­sid­ered, but his ac­tions sug­gest he is de­ter­mined to prove he is very much in the run­ning. Scin­dia is chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha and de­spite win­ning his Guna seat con­sec­u­tively from 2002 to date and be­ing the strong­est Congress speaker was not made its leader in the Lok Sabha. That des­ig­na­tion was held by Amarinder Singh and is now with the hard-work­ing but in­ef­fec­tive Mal­likar­jun Kharge.

A young Con­gress­man rues, “When will our turn come? We were ear­lier held back be­cause Rahul Gandhi was not tak­ing over. Now that he has, he seems to pre­fer Mrs Gandhi’s team. My son is 18 but I will al­ways be con­sid­ered a youth leader here. We are for­ever des­tined to be per­ceived as the sil­ver-spoon baba log. At least test our skill, give us re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­fore writ­ing us off.”

Another ar­tic­u­late leader of Gen Next said, “We should have been al­lowed to man­age the elec­tion for the Deputy Speaker in the Ra­jya Sabha. The party kept look­ing at Rahul Gandhi and he did not seem in­ter­ested. The old guard went though the mo­tions and pre­dictably, we lost.”

Who is in and who is out with the Gandhi fam­ily has long been a par­lour game of Congress lead­ers. Gandhi has sig­naled that Gehlot and Pa­tel are ex­tremely im­por­tant mem­bers of his team. He con­sults former Fi­nance Min­is­ter P Chi­dambaram on key eco­nomic is­sues and Ab­hishek Manu Singhvi on le­gal is­sues.

The younger lot seem des­tined to for­ever bide their time.

Who is in and who is out with the Gandhi fam­ily has long been a par­lour game of Congress lead­ers. Gandhi has sig­naled that Gehlot and Pa­tel are ex­tremely im­por­tant mem­bers of his team

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Ku­mar with So­nia Gandhi

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