Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president who has recently put together a team of apolitical, yet highly qualified individuals who are expected to bring new ideas to the table in the run-up to the next year’s general elections. Raju’s official designation is chairman of the Congress cell on schedule castes, but in reality, the mandate for the bureaucrat from the coastal Andhra Pradesh is much beyond that. He along with a few others such as Kaushal Vidyarthee, a DPhil from Oxford University, or Alankar Sawai, formerly with ICICI Bank’s credit card division, form a team of technocrats to work closely with Congress’ prospective PM contender. As the election is coming nearer, the party’s war room located at New Delhi’s Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Road will get activated, with strategists like Raju to use it regularly.
If Raju had preferred to continue as an IAS, he would have retired only in June, 2016. But the officer took the gamble to retire early so that he can advance his political journey at least by three years. An MPhil in economic management and policy, and MBA from the Australian University of Curtin, Raju is expected to play a major role in swinging Dalit votes in favour of the Congress.
In post-YSR Andhra Pradesh, Raju became an important bureaucrat. After all, he was the principal secretary to chief minister K Rosaiah under whose regime YSR’s son YS Jaganmohan Reddy became a pariah for the Congress. He and his family were probed by multiple investigation agencies, and the aspiring chief minister was finally put behind bar.
Raju’s entry into the Congress is expected to bring back the Dalits of the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh who had shifted loyalty to Jaganmohan’s new party YSR Congress.
Only in the recent cabinet reshuffle in June, another IAS-turned politician, JD Seelam, was made an MoS in the finance ministry mainly to increase the Congress’ stake in coastal Andhra. Seelam was a 1984 batch IAS who had left the service in 1999 to join active politics. (Read: Who is JD Seelam?)
In his bureaucratic career, Raju served as the collector in districts such as Nellore and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. In the state, he had served both in rural and urban ministries before joining in chief minister’s office.
During the last three years, Raju got an opportunity to work closely with Mrs Gandhi. As one of the two top ranking officials, Raju had a direct access to 10, Janpath. In fact, the NAC headquarters is located just opposite Mrs Gandhi’s official residence, and Raju was assigned to brief Mrs Gandhi off and on.
The question now is whether this former bureaucrat will be able to impress Rahul Gandhi as well? And whether he would be able to create grassroots Dalit leaders and activists, for the party? The verdict is just a few months away.