Rahul hands party purse to Patel

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has picked Sonia Gandhi's long-time political secretary Ahmed Patel as the party's money-keeper and fundraiser in a move that, insiders say, only puts an official stamp on an arrangement in place for the past couple of years.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 22.08.18
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New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has picked Sonia Gandhi's long-time political secretary Ahmed Patel as the party's money-keeper and fundraiser in a move that, insiders say, only puts an official stamp on an arrangement in place for the past couple of years.

Patel, who turned 69 on Tuesday, has been appointed Congress treasurer in place of 89-year-old Motilal Vora. However, Vora will remain an office-bearer with his appointment on Tuesday as AICC general secretary in charge of administration, a task he was already overseeing. By all indications, he will retain his office in the innards of the Congress headquarters on Akbar Road.

If Patel was the keeper of the Congress president's secrets under Sonia, he will remain Rahul's most trusted functionary as the party struggles to put its dwindling resources to best use in an election year while trying to raise funds in an environment where business houses are wary of contributing to parties other than the BJP for fear of retribution.

Congress insiders are hopeful that Patel's formal appointment will give him greater authority to raise funds than he had in the last few years when he was working in coordination with Vora. The appointment, according to an AICC office-bearer, is a signal that Patel continues to enjoy the confidence of the Congress leadership even under Rahul.

Patel's appointment came as a surprise despite the informal arrangement within the party. But another decision taken on Tuesday, to remove C.P. Joshi as general secretary in charge of the Northeast (except Assam), has been on the cards for a while now. He will be replaced by former Goa chief minister Luizinho Falerio.

Another octogenarian relieved of his charge is Karan Singh. The 87-year-old chairperson of the AICC's foreign affairs department will be replaced by the party's deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who agreed to contest the presidential elections last year knowing well that it was a lost cause, has been accommodated in the Congress Working Committee as a permanent invitee.

Tuesday's decisions signal that the change in leadership at the top in December 2017, when Rahul took over as party president from Sonia, is not the end of the road for the old guard.

The younger Congress leaders who had been eyeing mid-level positions in the party under Rahul are now hoping the rejig means he has other plans for them in an election year.