Senior Congress chief Ghulam Nabi Azad, blamed and called “coterie of inexperienced sycophants”, referring to those near the Gandhis. Azad alleged that this coterie, consisting of “PAs and safety guards”, was making all the decisions in the party.
Two days earlier Azad shot his scathing resignation letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, one other fellow Congressman mentioned one thing similar while placing in his papers.
Jaiveer Shergill, one of the nationwide spokespersons of the party, mentioned in an interview after his resignation that the party was being run by “PAs and OSDs and selective leaders”. Shergill added that he was unable to secure an appointment with the three Gandhis after attemptempting for over a year.
Azad and Shergill are not the primary leaders exiting the party to have spoken about this “coterie”. Other Congress leaders, have also accepted in public and in private the decision making powers of “coterie” . They also told about how the “coterie” restricts acess to the three Gandhis.
Let’s take a look at the “coterie”
K.B. Byju, Alankar Sawai, Sandeep Singh, Kanishka Singh, Sachin Rao, K. Raju and Praveen Chakravarty for the “corterie”.
Azad referred ‘security guards’ to K.B. Byju, who was a former member of Rahul Gandhi’s Special Protection Group (SPG).Byju became a part of Rahul’s team when the latter became the General Secretary of the party in 2007. Byju is in-charge of all travel, movements and security arrangements of Rahul Gandhi, which makes him a trusted lieutenant of the former party president.
Alankar Sawai is a former ICICI bank executive, member of Rahul Gandhi’s personal staff and handles his day-to-day engagements. He has been known to restrict access to Rahul Gandhi. He’s also Rahul’s and Gandhi’s interactions with the media, except for the one-off press conferences. Sawai usually accompanies Rahul on all his political trips.
What Sawai is to Rahul, Sandeep Singh is to Priyanka Gandhi. Singh, a former student activist with the AISA (All India Students’ Association) in JNU, had reportedly raised blacks flags for Manmohan Singh. Priyanka took charge as the party’s general secretary for UP, Singh leads Priyanka’s team and advises her in political matters. Singh also played a key role in ticket distribution and party strategy during the UP elections earlier this year. Some Congress leaders from UP had alleged that they needed to get into Singh’s good books to secure tickets for themselves, and that he was restricting access to Priyanka Gandhi.
Kanisha Singh as “a friend” to Rahul Gandhi. He started his political career in 2003 after quitting his job with the New York-based merchant banking firm Lazard Freres & Co. When he started out with the Congress at the time, Kanishka was working with Sheila Dikshit. He has been working with the family, especially Rahul, since the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. He handles “critical matters” for the leadership, especially those pertaining to law, security, etc.
Sachin Rao is an MBA graduate in corporate strategy and international business from the Michigan Business School. Rao is presently in-charge of personnel training and the INC Sandesh. Holding internal elections for both bodies, which happened for the first time between 2007-2009 during Rahul’s tenure, was Rao’s idea. Rao is also a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of the party.
K. Raju is a 1981-batch IAS officer, he started working with the Congress in 2009. He was brought into the Congress fold by Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. At present, he is a part of Rahul Gandhi’s team and handles affairs related to minority and caste politics, social welfare etc.
Praveen Chakravarty is presently the Chairman of the Congress’ Data and Analytics wing and an important sounding board for Rahul Gandhi in all matters related to economic policies. Chakravarty’s team undertakes surveys and data-based technological initiatives for the party.
The most consistent members have been K.C. Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala. Apart from this another leader who enjoys proximity to Gandhi’s is Manickam Tagore.