Two sides of the same coin

Updated: 16 March, 2020 08:10 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

While Rajiv Satav drew up an enduring plan for himself in the Congress, his ex-Youth Congress counterpart from Maharashtra, Priyanka Chaturvedi, who was dejected in the national party, constructed a successful short-cut through Shiv Sena to enter the

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi

Dharmendra JoreAt the beginning of this decade, Rajiv Satav headed the Indian Youth Congress of which Priyanka Chaturvedi was a much junior general secretary in Mumbai. Both Rajiv, 45, and Priyanka, 40, will enter the upper house, albeit from different parties, which are now partners in Maharashtra's MVA government. Having charted a way up, upsetting many in their respective parties and dependent only on their respective high commands, they are two sides of the same coin.

Rajiv is a second generation Congressman, who inherited the Assembly constituency from his mother Rajani. He represented the segment between 2009 and 2014 before emerging one of only two Lok Sabha winners from Maharashtra when Narendra Modi ascended the Delhi throne for the first time. By that time, he had represented the party in all possible bodies -- a taluka panchayat, a zilla parishad, the Assembly and Lok Sabha. Meanwhile, he also helped Congress organise its student and youth wings. He headed the state Youth unit when he was elected to the Maharashtra Assembly. Soon, Rahul Gandhi handpicked him to head the NYC. And, from there, Rajiv started firming his foot in New Delhi's complicated Congress culture.

A Lok Sabha stint took Rajiv to another level in the Congress, which was then in awe of Rahul's reforms. The MP did not stop making studied speeches, debating the cons of Modi Sarkar in the Lok Sabha whenever he was pushed to the front in order to expose the young and restless in the Congress. The NYC had shed its skin under Rajiv's leadership that solely focused on implementing Rahul's novel ideas, which later were forgotten or fell flat. His induction in the Rahul Brigade was complete when he was made secretary in-charge of Saurashtra in Gujarat where the Congress almost turned the tables on the BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections. In 2019, Satav did not contest Lok Sabha from his home state and was instead given a challenge to fight Modi-Shah in Gujarat where he was elevated as the youngest in-charge of the volatile state. Congress didn't win a single seat in Gujarat despite bagging 79 of the 182 Assembly seats 18 months before. But that didn't deter Rajiv from his primary goal of remaining relevant in the Congress that underwent further upheavals in the wake of Rahul's resignation.

Sonia's comeback in the chieftain's seat brought the veterans back from inaction. Rajiv's intended upsurge was countered by seniors from Maharashtra who had made Delhi politics their staple. There were a few others active in Maharashtra and Delhi Congress, who also wanted their piece of the pie. Meeting all challenges, Rajiv has pushed all adversaries to the wall by bagging the only Rajya Sabha seat that went the Congress's way in Maharashtra. Clearly, Rahul Gandhi isn't alone in backing Rajiv, his mother Sonia, too, did not ignore the leader, who, by Congress parameters, is too young to be sent to the Rajya Sabha. Mind you, Rajiv is not Jyotiradtya Scindia, who could influence two dozen MLAs to switch sides to have his way.

Since 2009, about a dozen young leaders in Maharashtra took pride in calling themselves part of the Rahul Brigade, but many do not enjoy affinity with Rahul. Rajiv has spent more time in national politics than in the state, and yet threatens the Maratha-dominated Maharashtra unit intermittently. The OBC leader has been in consideration to head the state Congress. The threat still looms large. Some Congress leaders also see Rajiv as a potential CM candidate if the party bounces back in Maharashtra.

The Priyanka prep
While Rajiv prepared his ground in New Delhi, a suave Mumbai youth leader Priyanka also stepped up ranks in the party. Having studied important social and economic issues keenly and laced with an ability to present them in a convincing manner, Priyanka made for a fiery national spokesperson. Her influential presence in social media, blogs and newspapers has been noteworthy. She did not have political inheritance to back her up but she believed that a changed Congress might also create a place for seeking votes for herself and the party. When the equations in Mumbai Congress altered because of the death of Gurudas Kamat, she wanted a party nomination from Mumbai North which ultimately went to a political novice, actor Urmila Matondkar.

As her former NYC boss led the Congress campaign in the Gujarat leg of the Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka quit the party 10 days ahead of polling in Maharashtra. She declared at a press conference that she joined the Shiv Sena because she wanted to grow and move towards her aspirations. "I was hopeful the Congress would take me to another level but that did not happen." Other reason that angered her was the reinstatement of some Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh who were suspended from the party for misbehaving with her in Mathura. Sena insiders say the party high command, especially Aaditya Thackeray, who is refurbishing the Sena's stereotyped set-up with novel ideas and fresh faces, lost no time in striking a deal with Priyanka, who knew Maharashtra and national issues reasonably well, and could air the Sena's voice very convincingly. Aaditya promised her a Rajya Sabha seat and fulfilled the assurance by dislodging the obstacles raised by some party veterans, who he wanted sidelined.

Congress leaders call Priyanka opportunistic but they should understand that the 'learning' comes from her previous political home. Since politics is also about opportunities seized at the right time, Priyanka has emerged a winner while the Congress failed to offer her what she aspired for. Hindsight says she would have lost the Lok Sabha polls in Mumbai, but her Congress candidature would have certainly proved a point that the party respected a party member, instead of fielding an outright non-political person like Urmila.

Priyanka had no doubt left in her mind before making Shiv Sena her new abode. The Sena leadership has upset hardcore insiders in elevating her, but we're told the high-command is very confident of the MP-elect's ability to join the ranks of strong opposition benches in the Parliament, who are bound together by anti-Modi rhetoric. Before making Aaditya the youngest minister and sending Priyanka to the upper house made up of mostly elders -- at the age of 40 years and four months -- the Sena had made Sanjay Raut a Rajya Sabha MP at 42. Currently, the 245-seat upper house has 159 members in the 60 to 90 age group.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

First Published: 16 March, 2020 07:37 IST

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