Cong’s chosen 13: Profiles of new secretaries handpicked by Rahul Gandhi

List includes son of a vegetable vendor,a former SFI leader to son of a Rly stock verifier.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Published: June 27, 2013 1:10 am

From the son of a vegetable vendor to the unassuming grandson of a former chief minister and from a SFI leader-turned Congressman to the son of railway stock verifier,the profiles of the new AICC secretaries,handpicked by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi,show a marked shift from the dynasty politics tradition of the grand old party. Barring one or two,none of the fortysomethings — more than half of the new secretaries are in the 40-50 age group — are from well-known political families. They are well-educated and belong to middle class families. Almost all of them have climbed the organisational ladder the hard way. If those close to Rahul Gandhi are to be believed,they are all high on integrity,have a clean image and a proven track record of organisational work — be it in the students’ union or youth wings or the parent party.

The Indian Express profiles the new secretaries,who are seen as the Congress’s Generation Next.

Girish Chodankar

Attached to Rahul Gandhi,this 45-year-old commerce post graduate from Goa began his political career as a booth-level worker and rose to become the state Youth Congress president in 11 years. He has been in charge of the NSUI for the past two years. Under his watch,the NSUI has performed well in the Delhi University elections in 2011 and 2012. His father was a vegetable vendor; his wife is an insurance agent. Chodankar is known as a fire-brand leader,who galvanised youth support and led agitations against Goa’s BJP government.

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Shubhankar Sarkar

A former president of the Chhatra Parishad — the NSUI’s Bengal arm — this law graduate is in his early 50s. Much before Rahul arrived on the scene,Sarkar was in charge of the students’ wing of the party in Delhi. Under his watch,the NSUI wrested back the Delhi University student’s body in 1993 after a gap of nine years. He held almost all the posts in NSUI and IYC in West Bengal,and was one of the youngest spokespersons of the party in the state. He chose to remain in the Congress even as many of his contemporaries crossed over to the Trinamool Congress to cash in on the Mamata Banerjee wave. Known for his frank opinion,Sarkar was one of those who vociferously argued that the Congress should end its alliance with the TMC in Bengal,which resonates with Rahul’s ‘go it alone’ mantra. Party insiders say that he had handed over a note to Rahul some time ago,urging him to go on a nation-wide tour to energise the party in order to counter the Narendra Modi phenomenon.

Prakash Joshi

Son of a railway stock verifier,this 43-year-old is a former national general secretary of the NSUI and IYC. He worked closely with Rahul and was among a handful who worked in the pilot project of internal elections in Punjab. Originally from Uttarakhand,he lost Assembly polls from Kaladhungi during the the last elections by a margin of 2,000 votes. Two party rebels spoilt the chances of this commerce graduate from Delhi’s Zakir Husain college,as they garnered 21,000 votes between them. Joshi is said to have withstood pressure of factions,powerful leaders and caste considerations as he went around the country holding internal elections in the Youth Congress units as one of the election commissioners of the organisation. Prior to joining active politics,Joshi had represented Gujarat in the inter-state national football competitions.

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Bhupen Kumar Borah

This 43-year-old two-time MLA from Assam is a post graduate in political science from Dibrugarh University. He rose from the NSUI and IYC ranks,and was a parliamentary secretary for Home and Power in the Tarun Gogoi government. The son of a school teacher,he has worked closely with Rahul Gandhi as an AICC observer in Meghalaya,Arunachal Pradesh and Cooch Behar and also supervised Youth Congress membership drive in 11 West Bengal Assembly constituencies. Aggressive and outspoken,he is one of the vocal MLAs of the Congress in Assam. A grassroots politician,he opted for organisational work when Rahul asked him to choose between government and organisation.

Kuljit Singh Nagra

A former president of the Panjab University Students’ Union,this 47-year-old joined the Indian Youth Congress in 1997. He was general secretary of the youth wing in the state as well as at the national level. Roped in by Rahul to oversee the NSUI’s internal election process,this former hockey player designed a training manual and programme schedule for the students’ body. Nagra was Rahul’s choice for the Fatehgarh Sahib Assembly seat in 2012. Contesting for the first time,he defeated heavyweights like Simranjit Singh Mann and Prem Singh Chandu Majra. Considered close to former Youth Congress chief Randeep Singh Surjewala,Nagra does not belong to a political family. His innovative ideas like organising a NSUI alumni meet was well-appreciated by the party.

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Geetashree Oraon

She is the daughter of former Congress leader Kartik Oraon and wife of Punjab cadre IPS officer Arun Oraon. Her mother Sumati Oraon was a three-time MP. Geetashree is the daughter-in-law of Bandi Oraon,who represented the Sisai Assembly seat four times. The party’s upcoming tribal face in Jharkhand,as a first-time MLA from Sisai,this 47-year-old is the deputy leader of the Congress legislature party. Apart from overseeing the IYC elections in Malda,West Bengal,she helped party nominee Sabina Yasmin win the Mothabari seat despite stiff opposition from the influential A B Ghani Khan Choudhary family. She was deputed in Bengal to prepare a political status report.

Sanjay Kapoor

This 49-year-old three-time MLA from Bilaspur,UP,is one of the eight zonal presidents appointed by Rahul in UP. Having joined the IYC in 1982,he has more than three decades of organisational experience,and has held almost all the positions in the district Congress. At the age of 20,he became the district president of IYC and remained in the post for 18 years. Not belonging to a political family,he worked his way in Rampur where the Nawab family and widow of former Nawab,Begum Noor Bano,virtually controlled the Congress for a long time. The law graduate’s appointment is seen as a reward for his loyalty.

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Suraj Hegde

Grandson of Devraj Urs,the former Karnataka CM,this low-profile Youth Congress leader is one of the few who have a strong political lineage. But that tag did not help this 42-year-old in climbing the organisational ladder. He entered the Congress through the NSUI route in 1992 and was the president of the students’ union of BMS College of Engineering,Bangalore. Having lost his parents at a young age and having the responsibility of looking after his siblings,Hegde vanished from the political scene for 10 years during which time he set up his own business. He returned to active politics in 2002,becoming the general secretary of the state Youth Congress. Hegde came in touch with Rahul after the Gandhi scion began his IYC democratisation drive. He is attached to Rahul,and has worked in the pilot project of internal elections in Punjab. Hegde was also member of the body set up by the Youth Congress to oversee polls across eight states.

Prabha Taviad

She is seen as an “empowered tribal” having done her MBBS in 1977 from Ahmedabad’s BJ Medical college. She belongs to the tribal district of Sabarkantha and lives in Dahod with husband Kishore Taviad. Prabha is the first tribal woman gynecologist in this belt of 80 lakh tribals. She runs a nursing home in Godhra and is attached to a hospital in Dahod. Along with Chodankar and Hegde,Prabha is attached to Rahul. Defeated in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls by a mere 381 votes — she had contested against BJP’s Babu Katara — Prabha won from Dahod in 2009. She was in the spotlight when she broke down in Parliament last year,showing injury marks after the police manhandled her to prevent her from going on stage to meet Narendra Modi at the 2012 Gujarat Divas celebrations in Dahod. Seen as progressive,she got admissions in MD in the general category,instead of the reserved quota,and topped in clinical medicine. Prabha started her political career in the 1980s,when she became the chairman of Mahila Suraksha Kendra in Godhra. She has opposed the compulsory voting Bill introduced in the Gujarat Assembly. Though she is seen as an effective speaker,Prabha is not considered a crowd puller.

Paresh Dhanani

The youngest of the new secretaries,this 36-year-old is a former IYC general secretary. He came into prominence when in 2002 he defeated BJP heavyweight Purushottam Rupala from the Amreli Assembly seat. Dhanani stood tall amid the ruins in last year’s Assembly polls and was one of party’s two young candidates. His father was a class I officer in a bank.

Naseeb Singh

An alumni of Dayal Singh College,Delhi,this 47-year-old started his political career as NSUI activist in 1986. Belonging to a family of lawyers,he was the students’ union president of his college, and later NSUI national general secretary and IYC secretary. A three-time MLA,he was parliamentary secretary to Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit.

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Shakeel Ahmed Khan

An SFI leader-turned-Congressman,this 46-year-old is an upcoming liberal Muslim face of the party in Bihar. He started his political career in the SFI,becoming the president of the JNU students union in 1992-93. A PhD from JNU,he shifted to the Congress in 1999. He was also spokesperson of the Bihar Congress.

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Zubair Khan

Once the president of Jamia Millia Islamia students’ union,this 48-year-old was also Rajasthan NSUI chief and became one of the youngest MLAs at the age of 26 in 1990. He has held several positions,including chief whip of the Congress legislature party and AICC observer for organisational polls in Sikkim. Hailing from Alwar,he is considered close to party leader Jitendra Singh. He was among the 10 people handpicked by Rahul to oversee selection of candidates in 10 zones of UP. His father was a sarpanch for 38 years.

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