In Congress rejig, Azad gets axed, team Rahul records gains
Before she is expected to fly to the US for her annual medical check-up, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday reshuffled the party's ranks, dropping veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as the General Secretary of AICC. He was one of the signatories of the dissenting letter. Meanwhile, Randeep Singh Surjewala, a loyalist of Sonia's son Rahul Gandhi, emerged as the biggest gainer.
Congress, whose performance in the last two general elections has been embarrassing, faced a new crisis last month when 23 leaders wrote to Sonia demanding an "active" leadership. The letter-writers (Shashi Tharoor, Kapil Sibal, Azad, Jitin Prasada, etc.) implored Congress to change its strategy to take on BJP. Naturally, the top-brass didn't receive the letter well, and the dissenters were criticized.
In the last meeting of Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's top decision-making body, it was concluded that Sonia will remain the chief for another six months. But suggestions pertaining to reorganizing the party weren't overruled completely. On Friday, when details of the rejig came to fore, the fact that the old guard lost enviable posts and the younger lot was promoted caught attention.
Besides Azad, veterans Motilal Vora, Luizinho Faleiro, Ambika Soni, and Mallikarjun Kharge were also dropped as AICC general secretaries. Azad, Kharge, and Soni became members of CWC's main body; ex-Union Minister P Chidambaram, who remained a special invitee, was also brought in, but Chhattisgarh minister Tamradhwaj Sahu, Vora, and Faleiro were dropped. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress' leader in Lok Sabha, became a permanent invitee.
A committee, having AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik, and Surjewala as members, was constituted to assist Sonia in "organizational/operational matters." Surjewala also became a permanent member of CWC, Karnataka's general secretary in-charge, and will remain the chief spokesperson. Rahul's aide Jitendra Singh became the in-charge for Assam, and Tariq Anwar became the in-charge for Kerala and Lakshadweep.
The Central Election Authority was also reshuffled and it bears Rahul's name all over. His loyalist Madhusudan Mistry was made the head of the panel, which also has Rajesh Mishra, Krishna Byre Gowda, S Jothimani, and Arvinder Singh Lovely as members Interestingly, Lovely was one of the 23 people who signed the dissenting letter. Gowda and Jothimani are also considered close to Rahul.
Former Union Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal became the in-charge of administration, replacing Vora. HK Patil, a renowned leader in Karnataka, replaced Kharge as in-charge of Maharashtra. Dinesh Gundu Rao was named in-charge of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Goa; Manickam Tagore was made the in-charge for Telangana. Devender Yadav became the new in-charge of Uttarakhand and Rajeev Shukla of Himachal Pradesh.
Sonia's daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra became the general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, Prasada was moved to West Bengal, where elections are due next year. Wasnik, another member of the "group of 23," became the general secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh. Announcing the changes, Venugopal reportedly said Congress "wholeheartedly appreciates the contributions of outgoing general secretaries Azad, Vora, Soni, Kharge, and Faleiro."