In Lok Sabha, two-term MP Gaurav Gogoi was appointed deputy to legislature party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu was appointed Whip.
Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari, who was one of the dissidents, was ignored. Even though Tewari too is a two-term MP, he is much more senior to Gogoi in the party — having been president of the NSUI and Youth Congress, and a former Union Minister.
In Rajya Sabha, where the senior-most of the 23 dissidents, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is the party’s leader, AICC general secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal has been made part of a new five-member decision-making group.
Both Venugopal and Gogoi are considered close to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Bittu, the MP from Ludhiana, first replaced Tewari as the party’s candidate for the seat in 2014, an election that the latter did not contest.
“Manish (Tewari) could have come in at least as the deputy leader (in Lok Sabha),” a senior Congress leader said. This leader noted that three-time MP Shashi Tharoor – also a dissident – had been ignored too, but reasoned that Tharoor “couldn’t have come in since K Suresh, who is also from Kerala, is there”. Suresh is Chief Whip, one of the posts in the party’s parliamentary set up.
The Rajya Sabha group includes, besides Leader of Opposition Azad and Venugopal, deputy leader Anand Sharma, veteran leader and Sonia’s close aide Ahmed Patel, and Jairam Ramesh, who has been appointed Chief Whip.
A similar group has been created in Lok Sabha. It has, along with Chowdhury, deputy leader Gogoi, Chief Whip Suresh, and Whip Bittu, Manickam Tagore, another Rahul loyalist. Tagore has retained his post of Whip.
Announcing the changes late on Thursday evening, Sonia said: “As Chairperson of the CPP, I have decided to constitute the… groups to facilitate and ensure the effective functioning of our party in both Houses of Parliament. These groups will meet daily during the session and can meet during the inter-session periods as well where Parliament issues are concerned. Joint meetings can be convened as and when needed.”
The decisions were announced on a day senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, one of the signatories of the dissent letter, hit out at the party, accusing it of targeting Jitin Prasada, another signatory and a former Union Minister.
“Unfortunate that Jitin Prasada is being officially targeted in UP. Congress needs to target the BJP with surgical strikes instead (of) wasting its energy by targeting its own,” Sibal posted on Twitter.
The Congress committee of Lakhimpur Kheri district has passed a resolution seeking disciplinary action against Prasada for writing the letter. Dhaurahra, the Lok Sabha seat that Prasada has represented for two terms, is part of the district.
Tharoor, however, sent out a different signal – he asked “all” his “colleagues” to “end the debate” over the letter.
“I’ve been silent for 4 days on recent events in the Congress because once the Congress President says the issue is behind us, it is the duty of all of us to work together constructively in the interests of the Party. I urge all my colleagues to uphold this principle and end the debate,” Tharoor tweeted.
Another signatory, Akhilesh Prasad Singh too, posted a conciliatory tweet: “Although I signed a letter to CP (Congress president), it was never my intent to discuss party matters publicly. With Sonia ji charting out a clear path for #Congress in the CWC, I have full confidence in her & Rahul ji. I urge my friends to have faith & not discuss these issues in public either.”
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