» Election » Congress putting Rahul's 'A' team in place

Congress putting Rahul's 'A' team in place

By Renu Mittal in New Delhi
May 26, 2009 22:48 IST
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Efforts are on within the Congress to create an "A" team for Rahul Gandhi for 2014 when he is likely to take over the
Prime Ministership. The current exercise say sources is to "find talent, put it to work and assess whether they have the capability to deliver the goods". The aim is to ensure that Rahul does not need to go team hunting when he has to step into the PM's chair.

"Those players who perform during the Ranji trophy would then be taken into the National team," said a highly placed source in the party. That is the reason being attributed to the delay in the swearing in of middle level and younger ministers as each name is being matched with each ministry according to the available talent within the party.

Apart from this, it is learnt that an effort is underway to restructure key economic and infrastructure ministries as to give a more coherent and delivery oriented system with the emphasis being on performance.

For this a crack team consisting of the planning commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, cabinet secretary  K M Chandrashekhar and former cabinet secretary B K Chaturvedi have been drafted to suggest
measures for this restructuring exercise. With the prime minister and Rahul Gandhi's long term and short term emphasis being on infrastructure development and strengthening the delivery system there is a proposal to create a ministry for instrastructure or create systems by which this becomes possible.

There is a proposal to have a single window clearance for infrastructure projects along the lines that exists in China.  That, said a senior bureaucrat, is needed to contain the multiplicity of clearances required from various ministries and departments before a single project can be cleared.

The attempt is to create alternate systems as quickly as possible with a part of the government working on that, said sources. The bottom line is to create "bench strength" where the mantra is perform or perish and where no one is indispensable.

A senior leader admitted that for now it may not be a perfect system as some of the senior leaders cannot be ignored and the party has to still consider the caste balances and equations along with regional and community representation. But the second half of the swearing in to be held on May 28 would focus on youth, said party leaders.

The average age of the 19 member cabinet team sworn in in the first round was 67 years, way to high by Rahul Gandhi's standards. A leader known to be close to Rahul Gandhi said that with 77 plus and 80 plus ministers being sworn in, " who are you investing in, and when and from where are the returns going to come in". He said that when Rahul becomes the Prime Minister, all these ageing leaders would be "dead investment" so the party needs to invest in young talent  which will flower and bloom, ready for Rahul when he takes over.

The suggestions given range from making more ministers of state with independent charge so that they can take responsibility, learn to perform and grow as full fledged cabinet ministers in due course of time, reviving the earlier practice of having deputy ministers and parliamentary secretaries so that the young MPs have a chance to learn
on the job making it easier to 'identify the potential of young talent.' "If you want to groom them and make them grow then you have to give them space", said the leader.

Sources admit that part of the process may take time to achieve but the operation has already begun. The promotion of Anand Sharma as a full fledged cabinet minister has led to a great deal of heartburn in the party as has the induction of C P Joshi as a cabinet minister. But both instances are being seen as the rewarding and grooming of performance and talent and ministries suitable to their capabilities would be assigned to both the ministers.

There is also heartburn on why an "A" team was sworn in earlier and a "B" team would come later, with senior leaders like Virbhadra Singh of Himachal Pradesh openly articulated his desire to be inducted into the cabinet and Mallikarjun Kharge wanting to know why a Dalit leader like him who has won a Lok Sabha has been left out  when S M Krishna has been rehabilitated as the external affairs minister.

Senior Jat leader from Rajasthan, Sis Ram Ola has been lobbying hard to make it to the cabinet again, even though the PM is against it. Ola has knocked on every door possible and with no other senior Jat leader around, the leadership is in a fix. Sriprakash Jaiswal wants to know why he is only being made a minister of state with independent charge while Salman Khurshid is being tipped to make it as a cabinet minister.

The questions are endless and the lobbying is at its peak but in the midst of the usual circus, aspirations and ambitions are sometimes not commensurate with capacity and capability, there is a very serious effort, say sources to put in the right men in some key ministries to ensure performance and delivery.
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Renu Mittal in New Delhi