NEW DELHI: About a year ago, 15 of the 40-odd AICC secretaries decided to take on the old-guard for denting the image of the party and Rahul Gandhi by talking out of turn.
A letter war had ensued, part of which was also about them being left in the cold in the Congress hierarchy.
The stunned old-guard was asked by party chief Sonia Gandhi to stop bickering and the protesting secretaries were given specific party work, which included overseeing a membership drive and regular touring of the states.
Since then, a lot has changed. The party seniors spearheaded an aggressive campaign against the ruling dispensation in Parliament and have been touring states, districts, holding media conferences by the dozen. Though not much of the aggression has translated into electoral gains as yet, there’s no dearth of activity.
But in all this, the secretaries have been found missing in action.
They are seen at the headquarters of neither the AICC nor the state units. Barring a few such as V Hanumantha Rao, Bhaktacharan Das, Shantaram Naik or Shakeel Ahmed Khan, many haven’t contributed to party work, preferring to nurture their personal political goals.
As complaints piled up, Rahul, whose cause they had championed a year ago, has ordered a performance audit of the AICC secretaries.
If their showing were found to be poor, they would be axed. A one-man Committee under K Raju, a former bureaucrat and close Rahul aide, has been set up to evaluate their work.
This is over and above the questionnaire that has been sent to each of the office-bearers for self-evaluation.
Sources say that Rahul has made clear that there is no point in the party being filled with people “who only surface during ticket distribution but are not willing to work for the party when it is not in power”.
In his report, Raju will be looking at not just their performance in the AICC but also at the grassroots – whether they have been travelling or holding regular district and block meetings.
Deepak Babaria, Bhupendra Borah, Prakash Joshi and Rana Goswami, to name a few, have not been seen near any Congress office or programme, an insider said.
Some of them have an issue, though: Congress treasurer Motilal Vora has drastically slashed the budget for the secretaries, including their travel allowances.
Those who are not Parliament members have to travel either cheap or with their own money. But that is not an excuse for no-show, says an old-timer who had stayed in the party offices to cut the corner.