Young Turks to get axe, as Cong readies for revamp

Former union minister S Jaipal Reddy is likely to be made the head of the media department of the party, which miserably failed to match rival BJP’s media blitzkrieg. The party leadership is reported to be upset with the ‘smallness’ shown by present media department head Ajay Maken in the fielding of party spokespersons during the television debates.

Maken, a minister in Manmohan Singh cabinet, was drafted for the party work from the government following the ‘trust reposed in him by vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the general policy of pushing young blood.’ However, under Maken, the Congress media campaign ended being operation run by political interns. While Maken is charged of promoting his friends Randeep Surjewala, a minister in Haryana government, and Sanjay Jha, a media professional, even as seasoned politicians on the panel like Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Sandeep Dikshit cooled heels.

‘In addition to them there was a team of juveniles with no understanding of politics whatsoever, deployed in the name of youth to counter much better informed opposition spokespersons,’ said a party leader. That Maken was losing his pre-eminent position became evident soon after former Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari countered his tweet on HRD minister Smriti Irani’s qualifications.  

Tewari ‘advised’ his party (read Maken)  to target the Modi government on ‘substantive issues not superficialities.’ Tewari had felt slighted for months for being ignored for TV debates by party’s media departments. Maken’s personal staff even went to the extent of ‘reprimanding’ channels for calling Congress spokespersons ‘out of turn’ and without their concurrence.

The cold war between Tewari and Maken, whose rivalry go back to the student politics days, also hampered the co-ordination between the party and government communication wings, which was being run by the two leaders. A party insider said, ‘The I&B ministry under Tewari and AICC Communication department under Maken functioned in isolation. There was just no co-ordination, co-operation or uniting of efforts or strategy. There was an element of one up-manship and working at cross purposes. Just look at the manner in which the government’s achievements like Food Bill were promoted. It was a sorry sight.’
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