The pecking order in the Congress appears to have changed on Wednesday with the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as General Secretary.
Priyanka Gandhi, sister of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, could emerge as the unofficial “number two” in the organisation given her profile and the adoration she commands among the party rank and file.
Alongside Priyanka Gandhi, who will be in charge of Uttar Pradesh East, young party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia has been made general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh West and the two will drive the party’s poll effort in the state seen crucial for its revival.
The changes announced on Wednesday also saw senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad being moved from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana as General Secretary in-charge. Haryana is crucial for the Congress as the state will go for assembly polls later this year.
Party leader K. C. Venugopal was appointed General Secretary (Organisation) in place of Ashok Gehlot who is now Rajasthan Chief Minister. The key post issues all orders on organisational appointments and other issues and is often consulted by the leadership on them.
The significant revamp, coming three months before the Lok Sabha elections, saw Rahul Gandhi organisationally dividing Uttar Pradesh into two parts – east and west – for better coordination and organisational connect. The two regions may also see the appointment of two separate party unit chiefs.
The large state, with distinct characteristics across its various regions, sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha and the Congress cannot hope to rule the country on its own without reviving itself here.
Party sources said that the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi as the party in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East is a clear signal that the Congress is “serious” about its revival in the state.
Priyanka Gandhi has been looking after Amethi represented by Rahul Gandhi and Rae Bareli, represented by her mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and her imprint will now be visible all across the state.
Though her organisational responsibility is the same as that of Scindia, Priyanka Gandhi will have much more political heft.
Her appointment has already energised Congress workers but making a success of her first assignment will not be easy given that the party has been organisationally weak for years in the state.
Scindia, who has been winning Lok Sabha elections, is seen as a smart tactician and an effective campaigner. He lost out to Kamal Nath in the chief ministerial sweepstakes in Madhya Pradesh and gracefully accepted the party’s decision.
Scindia hails from Gwalior and the Congress did well in the region during the assembly polls. Uttar Pradesh shares a long border with Madhya Pradesh and the Congress can hope that his appointment will also benefit the party in the regions bordering Madhya Pradesh.
“He has been winning elections, is articulate and among the top generation next leaders of the Congress. His appointment is a signal that the party wants to infuse a breath of fresh air in the party’s campaign,” said a party leader who did not want to be named.
Venugopal, MP from Alappuzha, is an articulate leader whose profile has been steadily growing.
He was appointed party general secretary and given charge of Karnataka in 2017.
Party sources said Venugopal’s new appointment also reflects the leadership’s desire to strike a balance in terms of regional representation.
Venugopal is a member of the key nine-member Core Group Committee formed to take decisions concerning the coming Lok Sabha elections. Its other members are A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram, Ashok Gehlot, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala.