New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): With Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, back from a mysterious 56-day sabbatical, the party is preparing for an organisational revamp. There is also a proposal in the higher echelons of the party for a 'padyatra' by Rahul across rural India in the next four months, to cash in on farmers' anger towards government on crop failure and also to highlight the new land acquisition law.
While it is not yet clear if Rahul would be elevated to replace his mother Sonia Gandhi as party president, party sources say, a major overhaul is impending since last year's Lok Sabha polls. It is believed that aging leaders like Motilal Vohra, Janardhan Dwivedi, Ambika Soni, BK Hariprasad, Digvijay Singh and even Mohan Prakash may be ejected from their posts as general secretaries to elevate younger faces and Rahul's aides.
Those who have managed to stay put include Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president. Party insiders say, earlier Rahul was baying for his blood, but he seems have realised now that Patel was "indispensable" since he replaced RK Dhwan as someone form the innermost coterie of 10-Janpath. "He has not allowed any controversy to reach to 10-Janpath, which is a massive achievement, unlike Dhawan, who could not prevent Bofors," said an insider. Others, also retaining their positions include Shakeel Ahmed, for want of a Muslim face, CP Joshi and Madhusudan Mistry, albeit with clipped wings.
A proposal is also on the table to create an advisory council to accomodate senior leaders, who may not find placements among office-bearers. Modelled on the BJP's Marg Darshak Mandal including LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, Congress leaders say, their advisory council will not be a morgue, but an energetic and an empowered body, to look after party affairs and advise general secretaries on crucial affairs.
Hinting at such changes, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh told a Kissan rally: "It is the era of youths. Time for our retirement has come. It is nature's law. Old leaves ripen and then fall. New leaves then grow. Youth is the flavour of the season. The leadership of youths will come and will lead the country."
Further, since Rahul's return from a sabbatical, 24 restive secretaries, who are seen as Rahul's brigade in the party met three times demanding a greater role for Rahul as well as an overhaul in the organisation. The also urged disciplinary committee chief AK Antony to take action against two-time former MP Sandeep Dikshit and deputy leader of the party in the Lok Sabha Capt Amrinder Singh for making remarks allegedly critical of the party's vice-president.
Meanwhile, after visiting the Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand Rahul Gandhi is now set to embark upon a long Padyatra across villages across the country to raise issues of farmers and accentuate the people's wrath against prime minister Narendra Modi. He may once again opt to start his long march from Vidarbha region in Maharashtra as it is already in the grip of a prolonged farmer crisis with a record number of farmer suicides and its over one lakh farmers hit by recent unseasonal rains. He is popular in Vidarbha for brining to light the plight of Kalawati Bandurkar, a farmer's widow from Yavatmal district, in 2009.
Rahul visited the region twice in 2011 and 2013 and thinks it would be the right place to start the mass contact tour of villages as part of an ongoing Congress campaign against the land acquisition ordinance and the Modi government's apathy in providing succour and relief to farmers hit by the natural calamities.
Those preparing his schedule for hitting the hinterland say he would particularly focus on states where the BJP had done well in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and thereafter. Of course, Bihar that goes to the Assembly polls later this year, will be one of his destinations. He is also scheduled to revisit Bhatta Parsaul village near Delhi in Uttar Pradesh and Niyamgiri in Odisha as.
In 2008, Rahul had personally toured the affected tribal villages in the Niyamgiri Hills and got the environment clearance to a mining project cancelled in deference to the locals' protest against acquisition of their land. Again in 2011, he slipped into Bhatta Parsaul pillion-riding on a Congress activist despite the prohibitory orders by the then Mayawati government and led the farmers against the forcible acquisition of land for the Yamuna Expressway to provide a fast road connect between Delhi an Agra.