Rahul Gandhi stamps his authority over Congress by making key party appointments
Having been given a free hand to run the party during the recently held plenary session, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has made three key appointments on Tuesday which are likely to set the ball rolling for many such changes that are expected in the months to come.
On Tuesday, Rahul appointed Amit Chavda as the president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president putting to rest all speculations around former chief Bharatsinh Solanki's resignation. Earlier, there were reports of Solanki tendering his resignation as state unit chief after being denied a Rajya Sabha berth from his home state of Gujarat. However, these reports were dismissed by the Congress and Solanki as well.
On Tuesday, the party finally acknowledged that Solanki had in fact resigned from the post. A statement released by the party read: “The party recognises the services and contribution of Shri Bharatsinh Solanki who has relinquished the responsibility as the GPCC president,” read the statement released by the Congress.
The 41-year-old Chavda is a first cousin of Solanki and has been a four time MLA from Borsad and Anklav constituencies in Anand district. Chavda became a member of the 11th Gujarat legislative Assembly after he won a bye-election from Borsad. He won the Borsad seat again in 2007 after which he contested from newly formed Anklav seat in 2012. Thereafter, he won the recently held Assembly elections in the state with a comfortable margin and was chosen as party's chief whip in the Assembly.
Considered close to Rahul, Chavda is considered as the next generation leader of the party in the state who is also popular amongst the Thakor and Kshatriya community. In fact, Chavda, an OBC, will help in consolidating the votes of the community and will bolster Congress' chances in 2019.
Rahul's promise of giving youth more prominence reflects in how appointments have been made in the state. Earlier, the party had appointed 41-year-old Patidar leader Paresh Dhanani as Leader of the Opposition.
In other developments, party has replaced K Raju with Nitin Raut as the chairman of the Scheduled Caste department. Considered as one of the crucial figures in Rahul's inner circle, Raju is most likely to be accommodated in the Congress Working Committee and made party's general secretary. Earlier, during the plenary session, Congress passed a resolution, giving Rahul absolute powers of choosing his own team in the CWC.
Sources have informed that Raut, a Dalit leader and former state minister from Maharashtra, has been accommodated in the SC department to end the faction fight in party's Maharashtra unit. “Raut has been at loggerheads with several leaders from the Nagpur unit of the Congress. And by giving him this responsibility, Congress president has attempted to end the feud in the state unit,” said a Congress leader from Maharashtra.
Raut's name has cropped up several times in the past for the party's state unit chief but he never made the cut. The decision to appoint him as the chairman of the SC department is likely to help Congress in consolidating Dalit votes from the Vidhrabha region of the state. Moreover, experts feel that the Bhima Koregaon incident is likely to see Dalits shift their loyalties towards Congress and Raut's appointment could help it in securing a major chunk of this crucial vote bank.
Meanwhile, the party has also appointed Tamradhwaj Sahu as chairman of the OBC department. Sahu, a sitting MP from Durg, Chhattisgarh, will replace RC Lenka, who stepped down from the post of chairman. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Sahu was the only Congress leader to have won from Chhattisgarh. OBCs form a major chunk of the electorate in Chhattisgarh and Sahu remains one of their tallest and most popular leaders from the state. Interestingly, in 2014, Sahu had defeated BJP's Saroj Pandey, who was recently elected to Rajya Sabha from the state.
Keeping in the mind that Chhattisgarh goes to polls this year, Congress would be hoping to woo the community with Sahu's elevation. OBCs form nearly 48% of the state population and it remains to be seen whether Congress' strategy pays off.