April 6, 2004
It is being called Team 100. A team that will see Rahul Gandhi to victory and will revive the declining fortunes of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
The team will comprise 100 tech-savvy youths who will accompany Rahul during campaigning in the cow belt. Besides a spotless image and university education, the primary criterion for selection to this team was that the member had to be ‘‘of the same age group as Rahul Gandhi’’.
Based on the local feedback, party leaders like Jairam Ramesh and Salman Khursheed are busy putting together a network of young leaders who will work on the Congress’ image in every segment of UP and other northern states.
The UP team will have three components. The first tier will comprise senior leaders like Mohsina Kidwai, Ram Naresh Yadav, Mahavir Prasad, followed by second generation leaders like Harikesh Bahadur, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Pramod Tyagi, Salman Khursheed and Arun Kumar Munna. For the third generation youth leaders, a preliminary list of 100 names has been reportedly drawn up of members aged between 28 to 40 years.
The idea was to build a young leadership with an eye on future elections, especially the Lok Sabha elections of 2009 and the Assembly polls. It is a desperate bid to salvage the party’s fortunes, which has touched an all-time low in UP with just nine MPs out of 80 seats and 16 MLAs in the Assembly of 402.
Party leaders are now banking on Rahul Gandhi to strengthen the position of chief Sonia Gandhi on the lines that Indira Gandhi had done for father Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi had done for his mother.
The present situation, however, is different as the Congress is not in power. After the 2004 elections, if the Congress continues to remain out of power, then the strategy would be to focus on the causes for its decline.
• Vivek Bansal (38): MLA from Aligarh, post-graduate in history from Aligarh University. First contested 1993 Assembly elections from Aligarh and lost. Father is professor in Agra University.
The ‘‘new wave’’, which Rahul Gandhi’s entry is expected to bring in UP, will be carried forward to all the areas through his team, as each member has been carefully chosen for his/her appeal among the voters.
A team member, Vibhakar Shastri, 38, said: ‘‘We would promote ideology under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. R.P.N. Singh’s election gets over on April 26, and mine on April 5.
After that, we will join in the campaigning wherever he (Rahul) goes.’’
Shastri is a Delhi University graduate and MBA from Leeds, UK. He is the grandson of Lal Bahadur Shastri and joined politics in 1999 when he contested Lok Sabha elections from Fatehpur.
Cautious about the caste-combinations, the team will have about 10 members each from various core votebanks like Dalits, Muslims, women, OBCs and others. Apart from these, sons and daughters of senior political leaders of the state who still have a following in the state have been identified.
Though the schedule is yet to be finalised, Gandhi is expected to campaign in UP and states of North India. This team, some of the members are aspirants for tickets in this general elections, would act like a backup team for Gandhi’s campaigning in UP.
But the main focus is clearly the elections of future and establishing a new tenet of rules, independent of the political dynamics of the UP Pradesh Congress Committee. Which is why the members are young with at least two decades of political career ahead of them.
It is expected that after the Lok Sabha elections the UPCC could be revamped, which would be another attempt at bringing a sea change in the nature of party politics in the state.
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