Party satraps back in action as Congress hopes to march ahead

Party satraps back in action as Congress hopes to march ahead
Sonia Gandhi

Ignored by the select coterie of Rahul Gandhi, the old satraps of India's grand old party are finally back at the Congress nerve centre.

New Delhi: Ignored by the select coterie of Rahul Gandhi, the old satraps of India's grand old party are finally back at the Congress nerve centre. Among them, Ahmed Patel, the man widely credited for Congress' major wins in 2004 and 2009 general elections, seems to be a key player in the party's gradual revival.

Patel(70), the National Treasurer of the Party along with a few other veterans, was given liberty to strategise party's key moves in Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly polls, under the new interim President Sonia Gandhi.

After Thursday's election results, which show an improved tally for the Congress, a general impression at 24 Akbar Road was that if Sonia Gandhi had taken the charge much earlier, Haryana would have been swept by the Congress and that Maharashtra could have done much better.

Sources said that Ahmed Patel re-connected Sonia Gandhi with the old guard, including former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was sidelined by Rahul for the past couple of years.

In Maharashtra, the party gave more importance to its ally Sharad Pawar, the regional satrap considered the most influential leader in Maratha politics. Besides, several congress leaders who had a limited influence on the ground were sidelined. The party even ignored its prominent TV panellist Sanjay Nirupam who was at loggerheads with the Maharashtra party leadership.

In Haryana too, Sonia Gandhi made several changes. One was the removal of its state chief Ashok Tanwar. Sources said to pacify Hooda, Patel had convinced Sonia Gandhi to remove the state party chief Tanwar, once said to be close to Rahul Gandhi. Kumari Selja, who like Hooda, was also against Tanwar for his several whimsical decisions, was brought in as the state chief. Ahmed Patel ensured that Selja, a former Union minister, and Hooda worked as a team in smoothly managing the Assembly polls.

While chalking out pre-poll strategies, including the crucial by-elections at 54 seats, Sonia Gandhi gave importance to senior leaders(and CMs) in decision-making, especially in the selection of candidates.

"Ms Gandhi and Ahmed Bhai were courteous enough to accept almost all the suggestions from Chief Ministers Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Kamal Nath (Madhya Pradesh) and Captain Amarinder Singh (Punjab) while finalising the list of candidates or while implementing other strategies in their respective states. These veteran leaders with decades of experience are really capable of countering BJP's every move... see Thursday's overall results...I feel one can say the party is now on a revival mode," said a prominent Congress leader and a sitting Lok Sabha MP.

According to him, Sonia Gandhi's decision in appointing veteran leader Subhash Chopra as President of the Delhi unit would also bring promising results for the party in the forthcoming Assembly polls.

Only six months back, before the Lok Sabha elections, the old guard of the Congress was hardly welcomed at the office of the then Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Instead, an inner circle, dubbed as an "elite coterie of outsiders," was influenced most of the decisions taken by the party high command.

For instance, former ICICI bank official Alankar Sawai or foreign returned Kaushal Vidhyarthi, said to be close to Rahul, wielded tremendous clout in the party. Former IAS officer K. Raju and an ex-JNU student leader Sandeep Singh were the other outsiders in Rahul's inner coterie who were virtually running the show at 12 Tughlak Lane, the official residence of former Congress President in New Delhi.

However, after Sonia Gandhi's re-emergence in the Congress, the party stalwarts are back in the decision-making. For the party, the results seem to be far better.

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