He is likely to appoint 15-odd new party secretaries, a majority of them from among young MPs
If the recent reshuffle of the Union Council of Ministers saw only a marginal imprint of the Congress’ yuvraj, the impending changes in the party organisation — likely before Diwali, if not earlier — will see Rahul Gandhi play a greater role. Not only will Mr. Gandhi’s number two status be institutionalised by re-designating him as secretary general, vice-president — or some such title — as he is brought into mainline decision-making, he is also likely to appoint as many as 15-odd new party secretaries, a majority of them from among young MPs.
Indeed, it is among the party secretaries that the generational change is likely to be most visible: currently, of the 35 party secretaries, six are believed to have been his choices — Ashok Tanwar, Jitendra Singh, Meenakshi Natarjan, Priya Dutt (all MPs), Manish Chatrath and Shanimol Osman. Of these, Mr. Singh, Ms. Natarajan and Ms. Osman are currently attached to Mr. Gandhi’s office as secretaries.
Mr. Singh has already been rewarded: in the recent ministerial changes, he was moved up from MoS to independent charge of Youth and Sports Affairs. Ms. Natarajan, party sources said, may therefore get Mr. Gandhi’s current portfolio — Youth Congress and NSUI — even though she may not be designated as general secretary. Of the possible new secretaries, four whose names were mentioned as possible junior ministers — Rajasthan’s Jyoti Mirdha (40) and Harish Choudhary (42), Tamil Nadu’s Manicka Tagore (37) and West Bengal’s Mausam Noor (33) — could make it.
Changing the party’s general secretaries is a far more difficult proposition, party sources stressed, with great resistance from this section. Currently, apart from Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, and treasurer Motilal Vora, there are 10 general secretaries and another eight who hold independent charge of States. While Mr. Gandhi would like to sweep aside a substantial number of those who hold posts at this level, Ms. Gandhi feels that it is important not to annoy the old guard, but rather bring in the changes in an incremental fashion. The old guard, on their part, are watching the situation closely, trying hard to protect their turf. The new team, therefore, will be what is popularly described as “a combination of youth and experience.”
To accommodate and utilise the “experience” of old-timers, there is a suggestion to establish a Congress advisory council, with party seniors such as Makhan Lal Fotedar, R.K. Dhawan, Mohsina Kidwai, Dr. Karan Singh and S.C. Jamir — all currently permanent invitees to the Congress Working Committee — leaving the day-to-day handling of party matters to Mr. Gandhi, who will then act on the advice of his mother.
If Mr. Gandhi finds it hard to change too many general secretaries, and those in charge of States, there could be significant alterations in the Congress Working Committee, the central election committee and the panel of spokespersons. PCC chiefs too could be changed.