As Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi continues consultations ahead of major reshuffle at the party headquarters as well as in the states, he is facing a tough time from an unease is growing in he party over the ‘outsiders’ getting plump posts at the cost of loyalists serving the party for years and decades. In the Jaipur Chintan Baithak in January, he tried to placate the loyalists voicing anger over the leadership bending backward to reward those coming from other parties with the party ticket and posts by floating the idea that such persons should get them only after showing their loyalty for say five years.
Sources in the party said Rahul, now offlate has been unable to respond coherently when the same issue is raised during free-wheeling interactions with the party-office bearers and PCC leaders over the last few weeks. The latest embarrassment to him came in Mumbai when a leader brazenly told him that the party suffers in Maharashtra from the AICC incharge for the state who used to abuse Indira Gandhi and talk all non-sense about her as a Janata Dal leader. The attack was on Mohan Praksh, who was himself present in the meeting. He is one of the rising stars of the Congress with such important states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kashmir under his charge. He had to also face protests at making Sanjay Nirupam who came from Shiv Sena as Congress face national TV channels.
Rahul could not answer how he will place the outsiders in the party’s reorganisation in the reshuffle he is intending by this month end. Mohan Prakash was promoted in the party much to the displeasure of many senior leaders by Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel and general secretary Janardan Dwivedi. Both of them now have expressed concern at the growing clout of outsiders. Many in the Congress now say to fix accountability after defeats in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Prakash was incharge of both the states.
But the other section in the Congress believes that no one will come to the Congress if outsiders did not get any posts. “There is no remedy to the problem and Rahul will be going against a well-thought policy adopted by his mother Sonia Gandhi to accommodate able leaders from other parties at a time when she was struggling to rejuvenate a disintegrating organisation,” a senior Congress leader told DNA.
They say, it is not possible to accommodate demands of loyalists, as Rahul cannot throw out Shankarsinh Vaghela, an ex-RSS diehard, or Siddharamaih as the legislature party leaders in Gujarat and Karnataka because they helped the Congress win a respectable number of seats. Nor can he order exit of party spokespersons like Renuka Chowdhury, Rashid Alvi and Sanjay Nirupam, all outsiders.
As a leader from Rahul’s camp stressed, he understands the problem but he has to deal it carefully as the party needs to expand its base and attract talent from outside. He said Rahul is torn between two issues: How can he ignore the loyal Congress leaders who sustained the party through all kinds of crises and yet hardly in a position to cleanse the system by the quick services provided by the outsiders.
In fact until last year, Rahul never thought in terms of outsiders and loyalists as seen from the core team with which he fought the Uttar Pradesh elections were rather all outsiders, be they Beni Prasad Verma, Rashid Masood, P L Punia, Raj Babbar or Raja Ram Pal. The candidate screening committee of UP was also headed by Mohan Prakash, another outsider. Senior leaders hope Rahul will now move cautiously in making key appointments. He was told at a recent interaction at the AICC that he should distinguish between those who are in the Congress and those who have Congress in them.
Sonia had made Jaipal Reddy the face of the Congress before 2004, a face that haunted Rajiv Gandhi most during the Bofors ordeal. But, the leaders say there are many others like Reddy who proved themselves after coming to the Congress and it will be difficult for Rahul to dump them at the cost of the party’s future.