On April 26, Congress president Sonia Gandhi appointed former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot as the general secretary incharge of Gujarat, which is going to polls at the end of the year. On the face of it, the decision seemed to defy logic as Gehlot had failed to retain his state four years ago. If the man he has replaced—Gurudas Kamat—was disgruntled over being sidelined in his home state Maharashtra, Gehlot has been finding it hard to face the prospect of a much younger Sachin Pilot leading the party in the 2018 assembly elections. And Gehlot may have headed the screening committee that chose candidates for the assembly polls in Punjab, where the Congress returned to power after a decade, but that certainly did not earn him the job.
What seems a routine decision is part of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s new organisational strategy. Gehlot is an Ahmed Patel loyalist. Hailing from Gujarat, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary has a strong grip on the politics of the state, making his involvement crucial for the party. “By appointing Gehlot as Gujarat in-charge,” says a general secretary of the party, “Rahul has made Patel accountable for the state. Contrary to perception, Rahul is not in confrontation with the veterans or those close to his mother; he is taking them along.”
That said, some of the new appointments Rahul has made in the last one week suggest that he is working towards building