Pawan Bansal New Cong Treasurer: Can He Fill Ahmed Patel’s Shoes?

No, but that’s not Bansal’s fault. Perhaps no one can fill the vacuum left by Ahmed Patel’s death. 

Updated
Politics
2 min read
Pawan Kumar Bansal has been appointed as the new treasurer of the Congress, following the death of Ahmed Patel. 
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Congress president Sonia Gandhi on 28 November appointed Pawan Kumar Bansal as the new treasurer of the party. The post had fallen vacant following the death of Ahmed Patel earlier this week.

Three questions are important in this context:

  1. Can Bansal fill the huge gap left by Ahmed Patel's death?
  2. Why was Bansal chosen?
  3. What signal does his appointment send?

Let's look at these questions one by one.

Can Bansal Fill Gap Left by Ahmed Patel's Demise?

The simple answer is no. The more complicated answer is that perhaps no one can fill Ahmed Patel's shoes.

Treasurer was just the latest official position he held in the party. It didn't sum up what he did. He was the party's ace crisis-manager, party president Sonia Gandhi's closest confidant and the bridge between different competing elements within the party on one hand and the leadership on the other.

Bansal would not be able to fill that gap and it would not be fair to expect him to do so. For that, the party may have to look at some other individual or maybe a team of individuals.

Bansal would just be a treasurer - that is someone who keeps track of the party's finances, where the money is going and where it is coming from.

Why Was Bansal Chosen?

The main reason seems to have been trustworthiness. Though he held key ministries during the UPA tenure such as railways and parliamentary affairs, Bansal appeared to have been sidelined since the 2014 defeat.

His name didn't figure in most of the party reshuffles except the last one earlier this year, in which he was appointed as the general secretary in-charge for administration.

This appointment was an important sign that Bansal has come back into favour with the party leadership and that his fortunes are on the rise.

His appointment was also despite the controversy last year, after his nephew was allegedly caught taking a bribe of Rs 90 lakh.

It seems that at a time when the party is undergoing a churn, the leadership seems to prefer leaders like Bansal who can be trusted to do their job quietly and won’t join the ranks of dissenters.

What Signal Does His Appointment Send?

The answer to this lies in another question - could the party have chosen someone else?

Yes, the party could have chosen a leader with more political heft, who could have gone beyond his brief as treasurer and do some of the crisis-management that Ahmed Patel used to do. It would have also sent the signal that the party leadership is putting its best foot forward.

Alternatively, the position could have gone to a younger leader sending the sign that the party is ushering in a generational change and opening up top positions to newer talent.

However, the signal that has come from Bansal's appointment is that of status-quoism. That the party is rewarding a senior leader who keeps a low profile and doesn’t speak out against the party.

Those who may have been seeking answers to questions like "where is the party headed?" - may have to wait a little longer, perhaps till a new Congress president is appointed.

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