New Delhi, Sept. 2: A group of 16 young All India Congress Committee secretaries are gearing to publicly confront all the veterans critical of Rahul Gandhi and resisting a transition, facing the party with an unprecedented situation.
The group was to meet at Delhi’s Punjab Bhavan late tonight to finalise the strategy which, its representatives claimed, they had not discussed with the party vice-president.
Never before in Congress history had secretaries revolted against their bosses, in this case general secretaries, and other seniors.
Secretaries have never enjoyed any clout in the party and mostly performed clerical duties. But Rahul had empowered them, giving them the confidence to take this kind of a political initiative.
Ironically, general secretaries make up the backbone of the high command structure and are the main component of the protective shield around the Nehru-Gandhi family. They could now become the target — though any direct showdown or bid to evict them from the hierarchy can come only at a later stage.
For now, the secretaries plan to write to some of the seniors asking them not to weaken the party through their public criticism and constant refusal to aid Rahul’s plans.
“We have already drafted the letter,” one of the secretaries told The Telegraph. “We will give the final touches to the draft at tonight’s meeting. Some people thought it should be a polite letter and should not look like a confrontation.”
Another secretary, who confirmed the plan, said the move had been under informal discussions for some time.
“There’s an attempt to create doubts about Rahul Gandhi’s leadership abilities, and one ploy has been to raise the Priyanka bogey. We know the future lies with Rahul but some seniors are more worried about their own future,” the secretary said.
“Tonight’s meeting is where we give final shape to our strategy. There are some seniors who wangle high party positions and Rajya Sabha nominations and then attack and blackmail the leadership. This has to stop.”
A third secretary was more aggressive. “We all want them (the seniors) to go,” he fumed.
“For 20 to 30 years, they have enjoyed power in the party without delivering. Some of them do not command a single vote. Now they are blaming Rahul for the worst-ever debacle in the Lok Sabha elections.”
This secretary said the seniors “should vacate their places amicably” to allow Rahul to rebuild the party.
| A villager offers Sonia Gandhi biscuits inside his hut in Rae Bareli on Tuesday. Picture by Naeem Ansari
He issued a threat: “Otherwise, we’ll publicly demand their ouster and seek a report card on their performance. They should tell us what their contribution has been over the past 10 years.”
To begin with, the letter will be sent to two general secretaries who have recently spoken out of turn. The party has officially reprimanded the two, asking them not to express their views through the media.
Despite being addressed to only two leaders, the letter will be meant as a signal to all the seniors who are unwilling to cooperate with Rahul and are creating obstacles in his path.
The next stage, which could be launched within the next few days, will see open questioning of these seniors by the younger secretaries.
Most among this group of 16 were handpicked as secretaries by Rahul and are not thought to have links with any other senior leader.
Asked if the campaign had Rahul’s blessings, one secretary said: “No, we haven’t discussed anything with him but we did convey our frustration over the prevailing situation.”
He said the strategy had been discussed with some of the party’s other younger leaders, including a few former MPs.
That only 16 of the 40 AICC secretaries are piloting the campaign suggests a desire to involve only the most committed and not to compromise the move’s secrecy.
Sources said Rahul was himself frustrated at some of the seniors’ resistance to change. In recent weeks, Rahul hasn’t discouraged any member from any state who has complained to him about “conspiracy” by entrenched forces.
A couple of days ago, a spokesperson from the Bihar unit met Rahul and bluntly told him that “75 per cent of the senior leaders mislead and blackmail the family”.
Although Rahul did not comment on the observation, this young politician was bold enough to call the electronic media and repeat what he had told the party vice-president.