Steering Wyanad Move, Swaying Big Decisions: How Venugopal Became Rahul Gandhi’s 'Most Trusted' Aide
AICC general secretary KC Venugopal is, hands down, one of the most influential people in the Congress party at present.
AICC general secretary KC Venugopal (right) with party chief Rahul Gandhi. (Photo credit: Special Arrangement)
New Delhi: “Rahul, you are a book that spreads enlightenment and glows more as we turn across the pages. In the hour of despair, you are the only golden light and no one else is before us but only you.” KC Venugopal read out this line from a Facebook post by Roopesh Pannyan, son of former CPI Kerala state secretary, Pannyan Raveendran, and smiled, “You know, Rahul Gandhi will win Wayanad and people will vote beyond just political reasons for him.”
As the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee, 56-year-old Venugopal, among other things, is responsible for vetting every appointment that happens in the party. His boss’s decision to contest from Wayanad is also said to be a move steered by Venugopal.
Speaking with News18, Venugopal said the reason for Gandhi’s decision to fight from the southern part of the country is that there has been a lot of demand from South India that he contest from there – be it Tamil Nadu, Karnataka or Kerala. The state leadership and the workers requested the Congress president to contest from Wayanad in Kerala, Venugopal said.
“For example, he went to a meeting in Karnataka and the workers only demanded that he fight from the state. Same way, in Tamil Nadu, 6-7 constituencies nominated his name as a candidate. In Kerala, too, the situation was similar and the Kerala party leadership and workers requested that he contest in Wayanad,” he said.
The AICC general secretary said the Gandhi scion zeroed in on Wayanad because it is a tri-corner constituency and shares its borders with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“He wants to drive home the message of unity. The Congress president’s decision to stand from a seat in south is a clear message to PM Narendra Modi’s divisive politics,” the 56-year-old said.
Venugopal’s accession to the position of the AICC general secretary is a big change from what the grand old party has followed so far—that the revered post was only reserved for the seniormost in the party. But it also shows that the party has not deflected from keeping up its faith in leaders from Kerala.
Like most senior Congress leaders from Kerala (AK Anthony, Oommen Chandy), Venugopal, known as ‘KC’ in political circles, has slowly risen to become one of Rahul Gandhi’s most trusted lieutenants. His appointment to the Congress top brass was not exactly welcomed with enthusiasm, keeping in mind his unexpected closeness to the Gandhi scion. But the 56-year-old is now, hands down, one of the most influential people in the grand old party.
Sources within the party said that Gandhi is said to have directed Venugopal, a two-time MP from Alleppey, to not contest elections this time so that he could look at the party affairs in Delhi. From being a go-to man for Gandhi to being broker for deals and warding off troubles, Venugopal has been very significant in forming the government in Karnataka and Rajasthan, and also kept it united amid dissent. That said, the Congress has failed to have a successful run with alliances, like those in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Trouble shooter Venugopal, however, said that his party gave it all.
“Alliances not working out is not our fault. We wanted the mahagathbandhan to work in UP. We had opened all our doors. We were shocked when they announced their seat-sharing ratio. There was no communication to us on their decision. We were shocked and we never expected it. We wanted to put up a strong, united fight in UP,” he said.
Even in Delhi, Venugopal insisted, the Congress was ready till the last day to go ahead with an alliance with the AAP. “We waited for a full day for AAP and they clubbed Haryana and Punjab as pre-condition for Delhi. We can’t have such an arrangement. We had to consider the sentiment of the party leadership and workers in Haryana and Punjab, and they would not have agreed to it,” he told News18, adding that it was AAP that defeated the Congress in Delhi and the latter was still open to the idea of an alliance in the larger interest of the country.
“But it has to be a respectful alliance. Even Delhi Congress unit had apprehensions on an alliance with the AAP but then Rahul Gandhi made it clear that defeating BJP was the party’s priority,” he added.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal pins the blame of split in anti-BJP votes on Congress. “That won’t be because of us. We have very carefully decided on our candidates in UP—in a manner that it doesn’t hurt the mahagathbandhan but hurts the BJP,” Venugopal retorted.
His confidence in backing up the alliance in UP in a silent way is further strengthened by his belief that Congress’s NYAY scheme will be as big a game changer as MGNREGA (rural employment guarantee scheme) was, if not more. Resonating what his party chief said about NYAY, Venugopal called the scheme a surgical strike on poverty “so that the country gets back on track from the poor policies of Modi and his government.”
“It has taken years of effort and analysis. We want to strengthen the real economy. What Modi did was demonetise money and take money out of circulation from the market. In the last two years, the purchasing power of the common man has gone down. So if people don’t have money, how will people invest? And if there is no investment, how will the market work and jobs be created? It’s a well-oiled machine. We are certain that this Rs 72,000 given to the people will go to the market,” he said.
Venugopal slammed the BJP for putting out a manifesto which had nothing new as compared to the 2014 manifesto. “They promised they will double the farmers’ income. Leave that, farmers are in such a bad situation that suicide rates have gone up. The people who are now talking about women, couldn’t they have at least passed the Women’s Reservation Bill? It’s already been passed by the Lok Sabha, they just need to pass it in the Rajya Sabha. What is stopping them? We are not only also promising the passing of this Bill but also 33% reservation in jobs,” he added.
As he criticised the BJP for doing nothing for women, Venugopal took a leaf out of the history and spoke about his allegiance to the Congress party. “Let me tell you, if there is anyone who deserves credit for 33% reservation in panchayats and gram sabha, it is former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi,” he said.
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