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Rahul carves out a toehold for youth

Mission 2012 may be Rahul Gandhi’s personal crusade for Uttar Pradesh. But he plans to leave his mark on the other states too.

india Updated: Jan 07, 2012 00:04 IST

Mission 2012 may be Rahul Gandhi’s personal crusade for Uttar Pradesh. But he plans to leave his mark on the other states too.

For Punjab, the Congress general secretary has handpicked six candidates. For Uttarakhand, four from the Youth Congress have been named. And no amount of carping from the state leaders made him change his mind.

The idea is to infuse new blood in the party, and rejuvenate the Youth Congress in the process too. In Punjab, it was a groundbreaking of sorts, bringing in two former Panjab University presidents in a state where student politics had been discouraged for long.

But unlike the last time, when Gandhi took his pick from political families, his candidates now are from humble backgrounds, people whom the voters would identify with. Rajwinder Singh Lucky, 32, is the son of a retired Punjab agricultural officer from Balachaur; Satkar Kaur, 30, from Ferozepur is the daughter of a retired teacher. Kuljit Singh Nagra, 45, from Fatehgarh Sahib, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, 33, from Giddarbaha and Shailenderjit Shelly, 36, from Majitha all have an agricultural background.

The candidates from Uttarakhand come from similar non-political backgrounds. Gandhi came to know them when he began the Youth Congress enrollment drive. And his pushing them onto the national stage is an effort to hone a new generation of leaders. The old guard would have none of it. Senior leaders, including Amarinder Singh and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, had tried to throw a spanner in the works. But they were snubbed by the high command. And once word got around that the names had been shortlisted by Gandhi, peace prevailed.

The opposition from the state leaders also reflected a trend. Since the days of terrorism educational institutions had discontinued with students’ polls, and local leaders promoted their own relatives.

The resentment in Uttarakhand is on different lines. Miffed at not being consulted, Garhwal MP Satpal Maharaj reportedly wrote to Central leaders asking them to reconsider the decision on Lansdown and Chaubattakhal. Candidates Jyoti Rawal and Rajpal Singh Bisht being fresh faces, have little chance of winning, he said.