New Delhi Beyond the organisational changes in the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha polls lies a strong core of inner circle of advisers who work as shadows of Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Vadra.
These are young professionals who have been picked up for covering all the aspects of backroom management aiming to match the formidable Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team that is widely regarded as an election-winning machine despite the setbacks in recent assembly polls in the key Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The Congress’ inner circle has come alive even more after Priyanka Gandhi joined active politics stepping out of her behind the curtain role to become General Secretary incharge of eastern Uttar Pradesh, the hotbed of political activities.
The team Rahul Gandhi, or CP (Congress President), as he is widely referred to as, is a mix of emerging young faces within the party and advisers like the veteran Sam Pitroda.
Some of the members of team Rahul Gandhi are:
Alankar Sawai, a former bank employee, has handled research and documentation for the Congress president and also works as his personal secretary.
Kaushal Vidyarthi, is the second personal secretary of Rahul Gandhi. The information available on him from public sources claimed that he studied in Oxford.
Kanishka Singh is the son of former diplomat S.K. Singh. He has been closely associated with Rahul Gandhi ever since he stepped into politics and has remained to occupy prime position in the inner circle.
K.B. Baiju has been a former Special Protection Group (SPG) officer. After quitting service, he got into Rahul Gandhi’s core team and has been handling constituency work, among other tasks for the Congress president. Baiju has also been with Rahul Gandhi much before he became party president.
Sachin Rao is an MBA from the US and has been associated with Rahul Gandhi for some time now.
Koppula Raju, a former bureaucrat, is in-charge of the Congress president’s office making him one of the key members of the group. He was earlier in-charge of the Scheduled Caste cell of the party. He was also the secretary of the National Advisory Council (NAC), an overarching body led by Sonia Gandhi during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tenure at the Centre.
Apart from these professionals, several young Congress leaders are considered close to Rahul Gandhi. These include party’s communication incharge Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is a member of Haryana assembly. Surjewala is currently contesting a bypoll from Jind assembly segment in Haryana which has become a prestige battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and regional outfit Indian National Lok Dal (INLD). He is being groomed for a bigger role in the state politics and has been at the forefront of Rahul Gandhi’s attack on the central government. He came into prominence after he defeated Haryana strongman Om Prakash Chautala in 1996 and 2005.
The others in his team are: Milind Deora, former MP from Mumbai-South. He has been seen with Rahul Gandhi on his overseas tours.
Jitin Prasada has been a former union minister and is key to Congress’ game plan in Uttar Pradesh.
Jyotiraditya Scindia lost the race to become Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh as the Congress chose Kamal Nath over him. But Scindia worked hard in Madhya Pradesh elections and has now been made in-charge of western Uttar Pradesh.
Rajasthan’s Deputy Chief Minister, Sachin Pilot, is another confidant who delivered by winning the state elections. Pilot preferred to join the state government and work for preparing the grounds for Lok Sabha elections.
Meenakshi Natrajan has come out of Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to give opportunity to
grassroot level workers to come up in the organisation. She has been with Rahul Gandhi from the beginning and continues to occupy a prime place in the inner circle.
At the Centre of the team of these young leaders and professionals is veteran Sam Pitroda who is always seen with Rahul Gandhi on his foreign tours and interactions. A telecom engineer and innovator, Sam Pitroda was close to Rajiv Gandhi at one point of time and is said to be the brain behind Rahul Gandhi’s new avatar of an aggressive politician.
While Rahul Gandhi’s team has been active for some time now, Priyanka Gandhi has confidants of her own who do background tasks for her. The foremost among them is Archana Dalmia who has been in-charge of the party’s grievance cell. She has been close to Sonia Gandhi and is now working with Priyanka who is also assisted by Praveen Chakravarty who was appointed as the chairman of the Data Analytics department of the Congress. The former investment banker is a data miner who is shaping the party positions on the key issues.