The Backroom Boys   (16 Feb 1998)



The names are many. You might have heard them before, but not often enough to register that George, Ahluwalia, Kulkarni and their likes are important. Or rather, important enough.

But they are. In a sense, more important than the politicians who overshadow them. They are the ones who make — and at times, break — the public figures. The ones who turn a saadha MP into a minister and a minister into a saadha MP.

They are the backroom boys, the invisible hands who, to a large extent, manufacture the poll prospects of political parties.

Unfortunately, these invisible faces are not getting any publicity or political reward for the contribution they are making. They are neither members of Parliament nor ministers, though their role is more important than many of such.

Like I mentioned, there are several of such men in every party. Lets take a look.

The prominent of the Congress backroomers are V George, Vishwajit Prithvijit Ahluwalia, Sarbjeet Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Janardan Diwedi, Major Ved Prakash and Tom Vadakan. In the BJP, its Sudheendra Kulkarni, Mohan Guruswamy and Kanchan Gupta, while Amitabh Adhar plays the role for the Samajwadi Party. He is the think-tank of the party and is involved in every exercise, right from drafting its election manifesto to media efforts, speech writing and tour planning.

In the Congress, Georges role stands out. He is a key factor. These days, he works 18 hours, keeping his profile low, very low. As secretary to Sonia Gandhi, he not only manages all the affairs of 10, Janpath, but works as a bridge between Sitaram Kesri and Sonia. He is involved in every activity right from policy and planning, election management, AICC affairs, selection of candidates, input for speeches, feedback, media handling and crisis management. Every one of the Congress leaders is in touch with George. He is in his element now, this trusted lieteunant of Rajiv Gandhi.

To date, George has not got any political posting. And neither does he care for one. Narasimha Raos biggest mistake, his undoing, was that he tried to humiliate George on several occasions.

Vishwajit, Janardan, Jairam, Sarbjeet, Ved Prakash and Tom, though paling before Geroges shadow, are contributing to the Congresss poll prospects. Except for Vishwajit, no one else has been a member of Parliament. They are just joint secretaries in the AICC.

Vishwajit, for his part, was nominated only once to the Upper House. When the time came for renomination he was forgotten — the Congress leadership never take these people seriously when it is nomination time. They are also never made anything more than general secretaries of the party. If not a general secretary, a few of them should at least be made secretaries, a new post which should be created.

Kulkarni, Guruswamy and Kanchan combine to form the BJPs think-tank. They are the strategists who advise A B Vajpayee and L K Advani on many issues. They supply inputs for their speeches and were involved in drafting the BJP manifesto. This time, the party manifesto has been appreciated all over for touching all major issues.

The media cell is also being managed by them, but unlike in the Congress they have not been given joint secretarys post. Worse, they are not even part of the organisation! In fact, the BJP bosses seems to be just making use of them instead of appreciating their work.

In SP, Adhar is managing a number of responsibilities, but like the Congress and BJP, gets nothing in lieu. He still continues to be its publicity secretary.

Similarly, a number of talented and hardworking people are contributing from behind the scene to other parties also. But todays political leadership, unfortunately, ridicule these people, calling them rootless backroom boys. Politicians consider these intellectual managers as mere social climbers.

I feel that if parties today needs grassroot leaders, it also needs good political managers to run its affairs. Politics is no longer mere politics. Now its business too, requiring a modern look, pragmatic approach, the latest technology, information system and proper organisation.

For this we need educated, competent people. We need the backroom boys.