iconimg Monday, August 31, 2015

Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 15, 2014
In a rare occurrence for the Congress, several suggestions floated by Rahul Gandhi’s key aides were shot down by party veterans at an internal meeting on the 2014 manifesto, sources told HT on Friday.

The differences underline the growing chasm between the old guard and Team Rahul and illustrate the magnitude of the young vice-president’s task as he leads the party into next month’s general election.

Supporters sit alongside a poster bearing the image of Rahul Gandhi as he appears at a rally at Balasinor, Ahmedabad. (AFP photo)

At the meeting late on Thursday, Rahul’s key adviser Mohan Gopal, the special invitee in the party’s poll coordination committee, reportedly suggested that Aanganwadi workers be promised government jobs. But the seniors vetoed this on the grounds that it would not be feasible to single out one part of the social sector for this privilege.

Another suggestion from Congress scheduled castes (SC) cell chairman K Raju, that SCs be given permanent jobs, was discussed but got a lukewarm response and was not incorporated.

Another key plan of Team Rahul, to bring several sub-manifestos on different subjects along with the main one, was also questioned. Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma felt that if all these manifestos were released together, people would lose interest in the main manifesto.

Full coverage: Rahul Gandhi, taking the lead

Read: Rahul is boss but he respects PM’s position: Khurshid

Party sources said these suggestions were “the personal views” of Rahul’s inner circle and did not necessarily reflect his own wishes.

Party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, according to sources, wondered how some of the suggestions could be clearly explained to the people. Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel remained silent for most part of the meeting. AK Antony, whom Rahul has publicly declared as his political guru, also didn’t speak much.

While Harvard-educated Gopal and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh tried to get in some additional suggestions, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde stepped in, saying: “Very good manifesto. You only need to bring the women’s part and the youth section up in the order.”

The manifesto panel, headed by defence minister Antony, incorporated some last-minute suggestions from Sharma.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addresses an election campaign rally at Deoli town in Tonk district, Rajasthan. (AP photo)

Read: Rahul Gandhi leads last-minute rush to clear projects

Gopal, director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, is widely seen as the most important strategist in Rahul’s team. At one point in the meeting, he pointed out that he had also given other suggestions that were “very good”.

The Rahul brigade gets another chance to push its ideas at the last manifesto meeting on March 16.

Some senior leaders also suggested that draft copies distributed during the meeting should not be taken back home by members to ensure there was no leakage of information from the manifesto, which the party may unveil on March 21.

Also read:
Rahul Gandhi loses ordinance fight, Jats get OBC quota

Mind your tongue but go after Modi: Rahul to Cong