RAhUL stArts UtiLisinG First GenerAtiOn pOLiticiAns
Out of 45 recently appointed secretaries in AICC, close to 30 do not have any prior political backgrounds. Gandhi intends to increase the number to 50.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi seems to be making a conscious effort to give opportunities to first generation politicians at different hierarchical levels in the party. In the ongoing process of replacements and appointments in the All India Congress Committee (AICC), Gandhi is placing regional leaders with a considerable following in the second-rung of AICC leadership, while the top most positions continue to be held by seniors.
Out of 45 recently appointed secretaries in AICC, close to 30 have no prior political background. Sources have confirmed that Gandhi intends to increase this number to 50 more such leaders at various hierarchical levels in AICC, leaders who have built a reputation on their own without any family links in politics. Most of the people are only known in regional circles and have been scouted by senior leaders.
A majority of the secretaries who have been assigned specific states are young faces who started their political career with the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), the Congress’ students’ wing active in various universities. Two key faces in this category are Sudhanshu Tripathi, who has been appointed as secretary, Madhya Pradesh, and Chandan Yadav, who is secretary, Chhattisgarh.
Tripathi, a lawyer by profession, hails from Jhansi where he joined Congress through NSUI in 1986. In 1998, Tripathi became the state president of Youth Congress. From 2006 to 2014, he was the district president of Jhansi. Before being appointed as a secretary, Tripathi was working with the senior leaders in the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee along with the Jhansi and Kanpur divisions. On the other hand is Chandan Yadav who hails from Bihar and is a first generation politician who started his political career with NSUI. A PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Yadav is the second leader from Bihar to be made secretary in AICC. Before that, MP Ranjit Ranjan was given this role.
Among others are three young secretaries of Odisha whom Gandhi has trusted with state charges—G. Rudra Raju, Anil Kumar Chaudhary and Shaikh Mastan Vali.
However, sources within the party also highlighted that while Rahul Gandhi has been bringing educated, young and regionally popular people in AICC, most of them are close to certain state leaders’ camps, thus hinting that there still remain talented faces who have yet not been recognised.
A case in point is Madhya Pradesh where Gandhi has appointed three secretaries, namely Varsha Gaikwad, Harshwardhan V. Sapkal and Sudhanshu Tripathi. While Varsha Gaikwad is the daughter of Eknath Gaikwad, who has served as Member of Parliament for three terms, Sapkal and Tripathi are both first generation politicians who have served in positions close to AICC. Sapkal is member of 13th Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and has served as an observer in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Assembly elections. Tripathi, too, has been closely associated with the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar senior leaderships.
While some young secretaries have been given state charge, other newly appointed secretaries have been attached with senior leaders to work on the ground level in various states. Some of these first generation politicians who have been picked by Gandhi are Prakash Joshi from Uttarakhand, Manickam Tagore from Tamil Nadu, P.C. Vishunadh from Kerala, Shaikh Mastan Vali from Andhra Pradesh, Jitu Patwari from Madhya Pradesh and Zubair Khan from Rajasthan.
Manickam Tagore, who has been reporting to K.C. Venugopal, AICC general secretary, in-charge of Karnataka, told The Sunday Guardian, “The idea is to give us exposure among the ground workers, gain expertise and build ourselves as leaders. I have been attached to Venugopal’s office for a year now and all this while I have witnessed a constant rise in the dynamism of Congress’ working.”
It is part of Gandhi’s strategy to give charge of a single state to multiple secretaries or attach them to a senior state leader and divide constituencies among them, who then report to a single general secretary. Most of such secretaries are from the “young” brigade that Gandhi intends to harness.
There is also a limitation on how long a secretary attached to a senior state leader can continue to hold that position. Some sources confirmed that it has been directed by the central leadership that none of the secretaries involved with state-specific work should continue in the same state for over a year- and-a-half. Such appointments should be strictly temporary in nature. Therefore, while a leader will continue to be a secretary in the AICC, he will not be allowed to work in a single state for a long time. Asked about the benefits of such an exercise, Tagore said, “The secretaries who have been given state charge or who have been attached to offices of state leaders, were told to visit our designated states at least 100 days in a year. So if there are a total three or more secretaries working in a single state, round the year, a continuous observation can be done.” After getting the green light from the Union Cabinet on 21 March this year, the Centre has started preparing a roadmap for the implementation of its ambitious Ayushman BharatNational Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM). Last week, a meeting in this regard was held by the Ministry of Health to discuss two major challenges—preventing fraud claims and tackling the problem of lack of hospital network in rural areas, sources close to the Ministry of Health said.
According to sources, the Centre is likely to announce the implementation of its ambitious AB-NHPM scheme by the end of this year. The scheme envisages medical coverage to 10 crore poor families, with an annual insurance ceiling up to Rs 5 lakh per family.
A senior official of a private sector insurance company told The Sunday Guardian, “In the meeting, government officials discussed various issues, including ways of preventing fraud claims that are expected to rise with the launch of ABNHPM. Government officials also showed their concern about the lack of network of hospitals in rural areas.”
To meet the demands of AB-NHPM, more government medical colleges and hospitals need to be opened; however, the present scenario is dismal as there are 479 medical colleges affiliated to the Medical Council of India (MCI), as opposed to 543 parliamentary constituencies. The distribution of these colleges is also not even.
“Currently, there is no standard procedure in place to provide treatment for any disease in the country. Hospitals also take advantage of this and initiate unnecessary procedures for patients’ treatment. In order to effectively implement AB-NHPM, such practices also need to be checked. The Centre and insurance companies are contemplating to create a mechanism in this regard,” the same official cited above said.
A senior health ministry official told The Sunday Guardian: “No doubt, there is shortage of a network of hospitals in the rural areas. However, the presence of small nursing homes has increased and that can prove to be a driving force in providing free treatment under the insurance scheme. Also, under AB-NHPM, the government has proposed opening of more hospitals, especially in rural areas.”
“The Ministry of Health is currently identifying the inaccurate records in its database and planning to insert the names of the targeted beneficiaries. In rural areas, the government has inducted the rural development ministry and gram panchayats as facilitator for AB-NHPM, whereas in the urban space, the government has charted out a plan to ensure the involvement of civic authorities for implementation of scheme,” the health ministry official added.
The Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 1 February this year unveiled the AB-NHPM, a mega healthcare project which the government claimed was the world’s biggest healthcare scheme.
The AB-NHPM will target up to 50 crore individuals from financially vulnerable households, a demographic that accounts for almost 41.3% of the total Below Poverty Line (BPL) population.
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