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Bigwigs stay,small changes make up Rahul Gandhi ‘revamp’

The party vice-president has reposed faith in the same old warhorses to lead the party.

Written by D K Singh | New Delhi | Published: June 17, 2013 3:14:59 am

On a day when there was gloom in the principal BJP’s camp,the Congress chose to send out a positive signal about its intent by effecting a much-awaited organisational reshuffle.

However,the exercise to bring in new faces and re-allocate assignments to a revamped team — which was expected to usher in Rahul Gandhi’s team to shake up the “system” — turned out to be largely an elaborate window-dressing. The party vice-president has reposed faith in the same old warhorses to lead the party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The list of general secretaries now includes former Union minister Ambika Soni,who was given charge of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s office,as well as Jammu & Kashmir,Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh,the states where the party is in power.

AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh was divested of his charge of Uttar Pradesh but was given the equally challenging responsibility of Andhra Pradesh,along with Karnataka and Goa. Madhusudan Mistry,the emerging star in the Congress who has come to enjoy Rahul’s trust and confidence,now takes charge of UP.

A close look at the other new general secretaries shows the same old preference for loyalty over performance and competence. Mohan Prakash,for instance,was promoted as AICC general secretary and given charge of many states despite his repeated failures as party in-charge of Gujarat,including in the recent bypolls. As UP Screening Committee chairman,he had faced a lot of flak for wrong selection of candidates. Though not essentially a Family loyalist,given that he was part of the JD(U) just about a decade back,Mohan Prakash has made deep inroads into Rahul’s camp.

Similarly,Ajay Maken whose previous stint in the organisation as AICC in-charge of Orissa and Jharkhand had been eminently forgettable has been brought back as general secretary,to replace Janardan Dwivedi as media department chairman. C P Joshi who had a lacklustre tenure as the Rajasthan PCC chief was made to resign as Union minister Sunday and brought into the organisation as general secretary in-charge of Assam,Bihar,West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Gurudas Kamat,who had defied Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to give him Sanitation and Drinking Water portfolio,was rehabilitated in the party as general secretary and given charge of the crucial states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Arun Yadav,who had been dropped as Union minister of state due to non-performance,has been retained as AICC secretary.

These leaders might have come to be known for missed opportunities in the past,but organisational or administrative competence was obviously not the criteria in their cases. Mukul Wasnik whose patronage of Ashok Gehlot’s camp marked his nine-year tenure as general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan got new assignments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu,among others.

The Congress vice-president appeared to be reluctant to take on the “system” in his party,at least until the next elections.

Instead,Rahul chose to bring in a lot of new faces as AICC secretaries,and empowered them with the charge of a state each. They include many Indian Youth Congress (IYC) leaders like former IYC ‘election commissioner’ Suraj Hegde,who has been attached with the vice-president’s office.

But Meenakshi Natarajan,AICC secretary in-charge of the Youth Congress who was expected to be further promoted in the party hierarchy,was dropped altogether from the AICC team.

The list of AICC secretaries now includes Kishorilal Sharma,the high-profile aide of the Nehru-Gandhi family who looked after their pocket boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli. The decision to bring him to the AICC was attributed to the party’s dismal show in these constituencies in the last Assembly elections in UP.

While choosing not to take on party veterans in the organisational reshuffle,Rahul also appears to have opted for a more effective and decisive intervention in the ticket distribution process. The Screening Committees set up for the five states going to polls in ensuing months include Youth Congress leaders and Rahul’s close aides like Jitendra Singh,Ashok Tanwar,Manik Tagore,et al.

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