Congress president Sonia Gandhi carried out a reshuffle of the party organisation Friday promoting and bringing in young blood into the AICC secretariat and accommodating the old guard in the reconstituted Congress Working Committee.
The announcement, a day before she is expected to leave for the US for her annual medical check-up, also sends a reconciliatory signal of sorts to the 23 letter writers who had asked for sweeping changes. She gave some of them representation in a committee announced to assist her in organisational and operational matters and in one tasked to hold internal elections.
By announcing a Central Election Authority, Gandhi signalled organisational elections soon to elect a new president.
It was made clear that the special committee, which has A K Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, K C Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Singh Surjewala as members, “shall continue to function till the next AICC session.” In other words, it will not be a permanent body.
Wasnik was one of those who signed the letter last month that had called for sweeping organisational changes in the party and had underlined its disconnect and drift.
The key takeaways of the sweeping overhaul are: dropping of some of the veterans as general secretaries and in charges; elevation or entry of young faces close to former president Rahul Gandhi replacing them in the AICC secretariat; bringing in many new faces, not necessarily young, as permanent invitees in the Congress Working Committee.
Even the reconstituted Central Election Authority has a Rahul stamp. While Rahul loyalist Madhusudan Mistry will head the panel, it has Rajesh Mishra, Krishna Byre Gowda, S Jothimani and Arvinder Singh Lovely. Gowda and Jothimani are considered Rahul loyalists. Lovely was one of the 23.
Veterans Ghulam Nabi Azad, Motilal Vora, Ambika Soni, Mallikarjun Kharge and Luizinho Faleiro have been dropped as general secretaries. While Azad was general secretary in charge of Haryana, Soni was in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Kharge of Maharashtra and Faleiro of Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. The 92-year-old Vora was general secretary in charge of administration.
Four AICC in charges of states, Anugrah Narayan Singh (Uttarakhand), Asha Kumari (Punjab), Gaurav Gogoi (West Bengal) and R C Khuntia (Telangana), have also been dropped. Gogoi was recently appointed deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha.
Gandhi has, however, retained Azad, Kharge and Soni in the CWC’s main body, brought in former union minister P Chidambaram, who was a special invitee, into it and dropped Chhattisgarh minister Tamradhwaj Sahu, Vora and Faleiro.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Lok Sabha, who was in the main CWC has been made a permanent invitee. She has brought into the CWC Digvijaya Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid and Pramod Tiwari as permanent invitees.
While Wasnik, Harish Rawat, Oommen Chandy, Ajay Maken, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and K C Venugopal were retained as general secretaries, the new general secretaries appointed are Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jitendra Singh, both close to Rahul Gandhi, and the veteran Tariq Anwar.
Surjewala will be in charge of Karnataka, Singh will be in charge of Assam. Anwar has been given the charge of Kerala and Lakshadweep.
While Surjewala was in charge of the communication department, Singh was in charge of Odisha.
Former Union Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has made a comeback as he will replace Vora as in charge of administration. Young leader Jitin Prasada has been made in charge of election-bound West Bengal. Another young leader Dinesh Gundu Rao will be in charge of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Goa. Manickam Tagore, considered a key member of Team Rahul, has been given the charge of Telangana.
H K Patil, a heavyweight from Karnataka, replaces Kharge as AICC in charge of Maharashtra. Rajeev Shukla will be the new in charge of Himachal Pradesh. Devender Yadav, a young leader from Delhi, will be the new in charge of Uttarakhand. The other new in-charges are Vivek Bansal (Haryana); Manish Chatrath (Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya); Bhakta Charan Das (Mizoram and Manipur); and Kuljit Singh Nagra (Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura).