Diggy out, Rahul recast begins

Congress president Sonia Gandhi today removed two general secretaries, signalling the start of a restructuring process that had been pending for three years after the party suffered its worst-ever defeat in the 2014 general election.

By Sanjay K. Jha
  • Published 30.04.17
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Digvijaya

New Delhi, April 29: Congress president Sonia Gandhi today removed two general secretaries, signalling the start of a restructuring process that had been pending for three years after the party suffered its worst-ever defeat in the 2014 general election.

Digvijaya Singh and Madhusudan Mistry lost their posts a few days after the departure of another general secretary, Gurdas Kamat. Shakeel Ahmed had been sacked a few months ago.

The remaining half-a-dozen general secretaries too are expected to make way soon for younger successors.

K.C. Venugopal, 54-year-old MP from Kerala, replaced Digvijaya as general secretary in charge of Karnataka, which faces Assembly elections next year and where the BJP is eyeing a comeback.

The other state under Digvijaya's charge, Goa, has been given to A. Chellakumar, who is from Tamil Nadu, although he has not been made a full-fledged general secretary.

Both Venugopal and Chellakumar are known to be very close to Rahul Gandhi. Venugopal's appointment as general secretary signals a generational shift; while he is part of Rahul's core team, he has risen from the ranks and was president of the Kerala Youth Congress. Venugopal sits beside Rahul in the Lok Sabha.

New secretaries too are being appointed along with general secretaries, providing a clear signal that many of those handpicked by Rahul a few years ago have not performed. Although some existing secretaries will be retained, most of them are likely to go.

Rahul will have a completely new team before launching the party's campaign for the 2019 parliamentary elections. He is expected to take over as party president later this year when organisational elections are completed.

Ashok Gehlot, appointed general secretary for Gujarat, does not belong to Rahul's core group but Venugopal's arrival is the most tangible evidence of the emergence of Rahul's team.

Gehlot and Venugopal will be assisted by teams of young secretaries close to Rahul. Venugopal's assistants are Manickam Tagore, P.C. Vishnunath, Madhu Yakshi Goud and Sake Sailjanath.

Tagore, 42, is a former Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu, and Vishnunath, 39, is a former MLA from Kerala. Goud, 56, is a former Lok Sabha MP from Telangana and Sailjanath, 50, is a former MLA from Andhra Pradesh.

Chellakumar, the new Goa minder, will be assisted by Amit Deshmukh, son of former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Digvijaya had attracted severe criticism within the party for the Congress's failure to form the government in Goa despite emerging as the largest party. In Karnataka, too, there were complaints against him.

It will, however, be wrong to assume that Digvijaya has been punished for his failures as Kamat and Mistry too have been removed without any apparent reason. Mistry has been appointed a member of the party's central election authority.

The changes have come primarily as part of the reshuffle that Rahul wanted to carry out to build his own team.