Rahul era begins in Congress, impact clear in party reshuffle

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) The era of Rahul Gandhi, 43, has begun in the 127-year-old Congress with his stamp clear on the recent party reshuffle that saw the induction of 30 younger leaders as All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretaries who are set to play a more active role in the organisation, party sources said.

"Rahul Gandhi's era has begun in the Congress. His impact is clearly visible in the recent AICC reshuffle," said a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named..

An indication of this, he told IANS, is the fact that around 30 out of the 44 AICC secretaries are new faces, are relatively younger and have been Youth Congress leaders.

In Gandhi's scheme of things, the secretaries are set to play a more active role on the ground under the watchful guidance of the respective general secretaries who have been given charge of various states, said party sources.

"The secretaries will play a more active role on the ground. They will be on the move, interact with state leaders down to the block level and bring crucial feedback to the central leadership. The general secretaries will guide them," said one general secretary, who too did not wish to be identified.

"The secretaries would educate the local leaders about the party's programmes and policies being implemented by the central government," he added.

The party reconstituted the all-powerful Congress Working Committee and reshuffled the AICC last Sunday, a day before eight senior leaders were inducted into the Manmohan Singh cabinet with an eye on putting together a team ahead of the assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram due by the year-end and the 2014 general elections.

"Rahul Gandhi's stamp is clearly visible in the party reshuffle but its impact in terms of electoral gains remains to be seen," Zoya Hasan, who teaches political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University, told IANS.

Congress insiders said Rahul Gandhi was careful that states were allocated to general secretaries and secretaries based on geographical neighbourhood to facilitate their tours.

For instance, C.P. Joshi has been put in charge of Assam, Bihar, West Bengal and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The earlier practice was to allocate states, which were separated from each other by long distances to a single general secretary, restricting travel plans. For instance, Mohan Prakash held charge of Gujarat and Maharashtra besides Jammu and Kashmir.

Gandhi, who was made Congress vice president in January, held detailed discussions with the AICC and state leaders over the past few months before finalising the new organisational team.

Newly-appointed communications department chief Ajay Maken said the new AICC team, with average age of a relatively younger 52 years, was a reflection of Gandhi's vision.

"Rahul Gandhi has injected fresh blood into the Congress. He has brought in educated people. This will rejuvenate the party and bring enthusiasm among workers. I hope the new team will work hard and give results," Nisar-ul Haq, who teaches political science at Jamia Millia Islamia University, told IANS.

Another point that party insiders cited as indicating Gandhi's impact is the fact that no recommendations worked in the appointment of office-bearers.

"I have been given this responsibility on the basis of my work. Our role would be to act as a bridge between the high command and the local leaders," newly-appointed secretary A Chella Kumar, who has been allotted Andhra Pradesh, told IANS.

Gandhi, who has already briefed the general secretaries on his expectations, will meet the secretaries separately to spell out what he expects of them, party sources said.

(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at amit.a@ians.in)

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