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Following the BJP? Congress to set up its own version of margdarshak mandals

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST
Old handsThe Congress has announced the creation of an advisory council to the Maharashtra Pradesh Cong CommitteeThe council features 15 veteran leaders including ex-Home Minister Shivraj PatilNew planThe Congress plans to implement this new plan across a host of other states tooWhile it may look like the BJP\'s margdarshak mandal, the Congress claims the purpose is very differentMore in the storyWhen will the plan be implemented in other states?Is Cong trying to hush up veterans\' criticism of Rahul Gandhi?

The Congress seems to be taking a leaf out of the BJP's book. It has already announced the creation of an advisory council (consisting of veteran leaders) to the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, and is now planning to create similar councils in other states too.

After its victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had created a 'margdarshak mandal' for its veterans who could not be accommodated into the Narendra Modi cabinet. Similarly, the Congress is also planning to rehabilitate veteran leaders who don't have an active role in the party or in state units.

The formal announcement is expected soon after Congress vice-president 

Rahul Gandhi officially takes over the reins of the party from mother Sonia.

"There are states where we have not been able to accommodate several 

veterans who have served the party in various capacities. Their feedback 

is valuable, and they can still help the party with their inputs," said 

a Congress general secretary on the condition of anonymity.

Drawing on seniors' wisdom

The decision on the Maharashtra advisory council was announced on 12 April. The party said the council would have 15 members, including:

  * Shivraj Patil, former Union Home Minister

  *Devisingh Shekhawat, former President Pratibha Patil's husband

  *Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, former CM of Maharashtra

  *Prataprao Bhosale, former state Congress chief

  *NM Kamble, former state Congress chief

  * Shivajirao Deshmukh, Congress Working Committee member

  *Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, former Union minister

  * Shantaram Potdukhe, former Union minister

  * Dharmanna Sadul, former MP

Speaking to Catch, senior Congress leader and Maharashtra Executive Committee member Vilas Muttemwar claimed that the creation of such a committee would benefit the organisation. It would also give a chance to these veterans to share their opinions on what can be done to further strengthen the Congress.

The Congress has set up a 15-member advisory council for Maharashtra, including Shivraj Patil

"Several states have veterans who have been former CMs, governors, Union ministers, PCC presidents, among others. It is good that everyone is being involved. Since these members can't contribute on the day-to-day working of the party, they can give suggestions on varied political issues. It also gives them an opportunity to provide a critique on certain political strategies," said Muttemwar.

Differences with the BJP model

Unlike the BJP, which was forced to create a margadarshak mandal to accommodate sulking veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, the Congress is just trying this to keep these senior leaders relevant.

The BJP created its mandal to keep Advani and Joshi out of any decision-making body in the party. However, the move backfired when the senior leaders lashed out at the Modi and BJP president Amit Shah for not taking the blame for embarrassing defeats in Delhi and Bihar.

The BJP created the margdarshak mandal to keep the likes of Advani & Joshi away from decision-making

Congress leaders claim this is where their council would be different from the BJP's. They say the party stands united behind Rahul Gandhi and, unlike in the BJP, these veterans also stand behind him. "Our attempt is not to try and silence these veterans; instead, we are giving them an opportunity to offer their valuable suggestions," said a Congress leader.

The Congress is going a step further in keeping these veterans happy by ensuring that their children and other relatives get representation in the organisation.

Attempt to hush dissent over Rahul?

However, there is another section of the party which claims that ever since Rahul Gandhi has taken charge of the party, he has pushed these veterans to the edge. This, they believe, has created a section of disgruntled leaders, who are waiting to unleash themselves on the party high command and its working.

A case in point is former law minister HR Bhardwaj, who on Friday dropped a bomb when he told The Indian Express that he was shunted out of the party for not toeing the Congress line on certain issues.

He said he defied the party when it wanted to impose President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 over charges of corruption on the then-Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. When asked about why Bhardwaj issued such a statement, a senior Congress leader said: "You need to keep your friends close, else they'll keep spilling the beans."

Even after the party's worst electoral defeat in 2014, a section of senior Congress leaders blamed Rahul for the debacle, and raised questions about his leadership skills.

Many in the Congress believe that repeated occurrences of disgruntled seniors criticising Rahul have forced the party to create a council that lends them relevance and a sense of belonging.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 15 April 2016, 11:18 IST