After three days of closed door and ‘open heart’ sessions at the party headquarters, the Congress second rung leadership is no wiser. They are not sure about what the new vice-president Rahul Gandhi has on his mind in a year the party has 10 Assembly polls to tackle, nor do they know when the much-anticipated AICC reshuffle will take place.
In the absence of a clear-cut time-frame before them, the AICC office-bearers expect the reshuffle to take place after March 4 when the new batch of general secretaries, inducted after the last rejig, completes their two-year term.
Unlike the veteran hands, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mohsina Kidwai or Motilal Vora, there are a few like Shakeel Ahmed, Mohan Prakash, Gulchain Singh Charak and Dhaniram Shandil, who became general secretaries and given charges of states for the first time during the last AICC reshuffle.
Of these four, Shandil has already opted out of party work after being inducted into the Virbhadhra Singh Cabinet in Himachal Pradesh recently. The three North-East states, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, of which he was in-charge, have been temporarily given to Mukul Wasnik. The latter returned to the party work after he was dropped from the Union Cabinet. But the rest three are yet to complete their tenure. And, one thing that Rahul has let the AICC office-bearers agree to is that future placement will happen on the basis of performance and work delivered-rules and regulations will replace ad hocism. “That is why we don’t think any major changes will be announced before March 4,’’ a leader said.
Meanwhile, Rahul wants to undertake similar open heart surgeries at the state and district levels.
Since Parliament will be in session around March 4, the Congress leaders feel that the process will take a little more time than expected. Even though Rahul was told by a number of general secretaries, including his mentor Digvijay Singh, that he should not keep them in anticipation for too long. Rahul has, meanwhile, assured them that he wants a mix of ‘experience and energy’.
But what is also worrying the Congress leaders more now is how the new dispensation will function. The AICC office-bearers are yet to get the crucial circular specifying what areas will come under the vice-president’s domain and what the Congress president will herself retain. During regular interactions, the AICC state in-charges are being asked to brief both Rahul and Sonia simultaneously.
But there is a tangible fear that the Congress president with whom most of the party’s office-bearers share personal rapport, will withdraw and let her son (“an unknown quantity’’) take over. The process has certainly begun and that is the change which is being subtly resisted. The young leader, many feel, is “still on the learning curve, no match for the Congress president’’-either in terms of political acumen or charisma.