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Is Rahul the only Congress general secretary who works?

By Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi, IANS,

New Delhi : The Congress party throws its full weight behind Rahul Gandhi – who is just one the party’s 11 general secretaries – every time he goes out to campaign. The other general secretaries are left to toil in virtual anonymity.

Each of these ‘invisible’ general secretaries is a leader in his/her own right. All are more experienced than Rahul Gandhi who accepted the post as late as on Sep 27, 2007.

The ‘prince’ of the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty is a first time MP from Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, unlike his other colleagues, most of whom have impressive political careers to their names.

Two general secretaries, Ashok Gehlot and Digvijay Singh have been chief ministers – of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Mukul Wasnik, Margaret Alva, Mohsina Kidwai have been union ministers. V. Narayansami and Prithviraj Chavan are ministers in the present government.

It would appear that Gandhi legacy and dynasty politics galvanise the Congress men and women into action. But Congress leaders would be loath to admit it.

When asked whether Rahul was the only general secretary who worked, Congress spokersperson Manish Tiwari said: “We point out his good work during these tours beacuse there are other parties, particularly adversaries, which try to appropriate credit for Rahul Gandhi’s work.”

Tiwari gave the example of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan who followed in Rahul Gandhi’s footsteps and visited the house the Congress leader had been to in Tikamgarh district.

In Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, the Congress believes, has tried to beat Rahul at wooing the Dalits.

Accepting that Rahul Gandhi will always occupy that high ground, Congress general secretaries try to project the 37-year-old ‘prince’ as the future hope for the party.

This is evident from the manner in which party general secretaries – otherwise equal in rank to Rahul – clamour for his attention during his tours.

The general secretary in-charge of any state that Rahul visits is on attendance till the last day of his tour.

Former Madhya chief minister Digvijay Singh, in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, had arrived at Kanpur a day before Rahul Gandhi, to set the ball rolling for the UPCC meeting on March 30. Similarly, V. Narayansami, the newly inducted minister of state in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, was with Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Chhattisgarh. Narayansami is general secretary in-charge of Chhattisgarh.

A photograph showing former minister Suresh Pachauri, in charge of Madhya Pradesh, running to catch up with Rahul during his recent visit to the tribal belt of the state is fresh in public memory.

Rahul Gandhi’s itinerary is heavily publicised – much before he starts on his journey. In contrast, the itineraries of other general secretaries is never made public – any enquiries to this effect draw a blank. B.K. Hariprasad, general secretary in-charge of Goa, saved the life of the Congress government but the party did not not flaunt it. Neither did Margaret Alva, general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, get any credit for her role in dealing with the crisis in the Maharashtra unit recently when Narayan Rane complained against Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

The Congress denies that its preoccupation with Rahul’s tours has anything to do with the dynasty tag. But the prince himself is not shy of admitting to it.

During his recent visit to Karnataka Rahul said that it (the Gandhi surname) has made things easier for him.

Recently there was a chorus for making Rahul the prime minister till the party high command put all rumours to rest by hitting out at the culture of sycophancy.

Rahul himself has spoken out against being labelled ‘yuvraj’ (prince). But party leaders say that they see in Rahul Gandhi their future leader.