Now or never for Team Rahul?

Pankaj Sharma and Ajay Vaishnav/Zee Research Group

As another reshuffle is round the corner, the question on every lip is - can the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) again afford to overlook Team Rahul? In all likelihood, the reshuffle may be the last before the scheduled general election takes place in 2014 and the UPA would like to make the most from it.

Imparting freshness and vitality by inducting young guns is desirable for a government facing flak on so many fronts ranging from mega-scams to policy paralysis. Moreover, it would be in tune with the stated goal of Congress’ poster boy Rahul Gandhi.
The Gandhi scion has vociferously pitched for pushing youth in the government and party machinery, even though he continues to shrug off any official responsibility for himself.

What’s baffling, however, is that despite Rahul championing the cause of youth, the UPA government essentially remains a gerontocratic set-up. Further, the reins of power in the establishment remain by and large in the hands of Sonia loyalists from Rajya Sabha without much accountability to the electorate. While no one is underestimating the sanctity of Rajya Sabha, the truth remains that directly elected Lok Sabha representatives face the electorate and merit higher representation in the government.

A ZRG analysis of the Congress-led UPA government reveals that the party’s young turks, commonly referred to as Team Rahul, have yet to receive any bigger role. While nine of them are working in the party organisation, seven are holding various positions in the government. Their hard earned grassroots political experience coupled with enviable educational background would be hard to ignore. It’s a moot question though whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will again overlook these criteria as Cabinet berths are often dictated on extraneous considerations repudiating merit.

For instance, from among Team Rahul, Members of Parliament Ashok Tanwar, Meenakshi Natrajan, Priya Dutt and Arun Yadav have been working in the organisation for quite some time now. Apart from gaining political exposure, they have sound educational background. While Tanwar has done his PhD (Medieval Indian History), Meenakshi Natrajan is a post graduate in Biochemistry and did her bachelor’s degree in Law. Priya Dutt, daughter of the late actor-turned politician Sunil Dutt has graduated in Sociology while Arun Yadav is a commerce graduate. The biggest stamp on their political credentials is that they have won Lok Sabha elections at such an early age.

Leaders close to Gandhi like Sandeep Dikshit, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jairam Ramesh, Sachin Pilot and Jitendra Singh are also holding various positions in the party. Barring Dikshit, four of them are currently assigned ministerial positions in the current Cabinet. There might be merit in the argument that it is high time their skills are utilised at higher levels preparing them for bigger role in future.

On the other hand, leaders close to Gandhi in the government such as Milind Deora, Jitin Prasad and RPN Singh are also among top contenders to be elevated to a full cabinet berth. While Deora has done his B.A. in Business and Political Science from Boston University, Jitin Prasad did his B.Com. (Hons) from Delhi University and completed his MBA from IMI, New Delhi. RPN Singh received his B.A. (Hons.) history from Delhi University.

Those leaders who are part of both the government and the party also hold good educational background. While Jairam Ramesh has graduated from IIT-Bombay, Sachin Pilot has received his MBA degree from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. Jyotiraditya Scindia received MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.