Post Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress focus will be on building Team Kharge

The importance of K.C. Venugopal in being a bridge between the Gandhis and party leadership is being felt as Bharat Jodo Yatra nears end

January 28, 2023 07:47 pm | Updated January 29, 2023 08:33 am IST - New Delhi

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with party leader Rahul Gandhi. File

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge with party leader Rahul Gandhi. File | Photo Credit: PTI

As the Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) wraps up on Monday, the next big focus for the Congress will be to formalise a team for its newly elected party chief Mallikarjun Kharge at the plenary next month.

However, with former party chief and Lok Sabha member from Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi, being subtly projected as the party’s chief campaigner through its ongoing haath se haath jodo abhiyaan (joining hands campaign), the new team will have to play an important role in being a bridge between the party’s top leadership and the Gandhis.

The incumbent general secretary in-charge of organisations, K.C. Venugopal, performs that role right now. He is not only closely identified with Mr. Gandhi but also enjoys the confidence of Sonia Gandhi as well as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

The 59-year-old leader has walked over 3,000 km in the yatra, from Kanniyakumari to Kashmir and has been closely involved in the planning of BJY.

If the Congress is relieved at pulling off one of its most ambitious projects so far, the organisational general secretary too has emerged as a crucial player. From logistics to liaising with government authorities on issues such as Mr. Gandhi’s security detail, Mr. Venugopal has played a key role in successfully implementing strategy.

Just before the yatra was to enter into Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the Congress general secretary held extensive consultations with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to ensure that the yatra can travel through these sensitive areas incident-free.

When the security ring around Mr. Gandhi during the Delhi leg was found to be inadequate, he shot off a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah last December.

On Friday, when there was a reported security breach at J&K’s Kulgam, he posted a video and tweeted, “No security personnel in sight, the D-area was completely compromised, and Rahul ji & the Yatris were left totally unprotected. We demand an immediate reply from the authorities on this egregious lapse”.

And while all this was happening, Mr. Venugopal was involved in other organisational work like the party’s presidential elections in October last year and firefight the power tussle between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, a State from where he is a Rajya Sabha member.

While he is considered to be most suited to play such a role, even after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is reconstituted, a rule adopted in the Udaipur Chintan Shivir that said an office-bearer will have a maximum tenure of five years and can’t be immediately given a second term may prove to be a hurdle.

The counter-argument is that though the Udaipur Declaration also talked about adopting the “one person-one post” principle, Mr. Kharge continued to function as the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha even after being elected as Congress chief.

“I would say let’s wait until the Congress Plenary. Things would get clearer by then,” said a senior functionary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).

The plenary, to be held between February 24 and 26 in Raipur, will endorse Mr. Kharge’s election as the party president as well as pave the way for election to the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body.

At least, half the members of the CWC, will come through the election route. With a non-Gandhi at the helm after more than two decades, the new CWC will not only have to play a crucial role in reviving the party’s political fortunes but also ensure continuity of decisions taken under the Gandhis.

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