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If Dhoni can do it, why can’t Rahul' Congress in young-blood gamble
Think tank returns to party

New Delhi, Sept. 24: The Congress has done a BCCI — it will be hoping Rahul Gandhi can do a Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Rahul was today named general secretary and member of the Congress Working Committee, setting him firmly on the path his father took before he became Prime Minister.

The 37-year-old MP’s induction into the ranks of decision-makers was part of a shuffle that saw the party field a young team in preparation for elections that could be held earlier than scheduled.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Sandeep Dikshit, Jitin Prasada, Priya Dutt, Madhu Goud Yashki, Alka Lamba and Meenakshi Natarajan are the other young faces who have been given a role in the party.

While the rest are heirs to the many Congress dynasties, Lamba and Natarajan are former presidents of the National Students’ Union of India whose charge Rahul was given today. Yashki is a first-time MP. All three have been made Congress secretaries.

Jitin, the son of the late Jitendra Prasada, has been made secretary and could be attached to Rahul.

As general secretary, Rahul will be in charge of the Youth Congress apart from the NSUI. He has also been made a member of the publicity and publication committee, and a new group that will formulate strategies, policies and the blueprint for the next elections.

“Of course, I am happy,” his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi said, as hundreds of workers crowded at 10 Janpath.

Rahul’s elevation comes almost two years after the Hyderabad plenary, where it was promised that he would play a bigger role in the party “soon”, and more than three years after he was elected Amethi MP. Sonia had left her husband Rajiv Gandhi’s Amethi seat for her son, moving to Rae Bareli herself.

As it tried to infuse youth and energy into the organisation, the Congress also brought back its “think tank” members who had migrated to the government.

Prominent among the think tank — set up before the 2004 polls, it had fallen into disuse — members who have returned are Prithviraj Chavan, Jairam Ramesh, Kapil Sibal, Veerappa Moily, Arjun Sengupta and Salman Khursheed.

The Congress also revived the department of policy planning and coordination (Depco), the publicity and publication committee, the training department and the manifesto committee. A separate “group to look into future challenges” has been set up.

A senior functionary explained that while Depco will confine itself to research and input-gathering, the future group will formulate political strategies on non-economic issues, such as the nuclear deal and “Ram setu”. Moily will lead the group that has Jairam as convener.

The group is expected to interact “actively” with the manifesto committee, which is packed with heavyweights. (See chart) The ministers drafted into the party will keep their portfolios, sources said.

“Quick fix” strategists like Janardhan Dwivedi and Ambika Soni have been relegated to the margins.

Mohsina for Bengal

Mohsina Kidwai is general secretary in charge of Bengal and Kerala, with the brief to woo back Mamata Banerjee and K. Karunakaran.

Margaret Alva, who lost Bengal, has kept Maharashtra and got several northern and northeastern states. Digvijay Singh has got charge of Uttar Pradesh.

Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the daughter of the late chief minister Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, has been made the state unit chief in the hope she will be able to woo back Brahmin votes.

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