The Congress on Saturday day announced the appointment of Pawan Bansal, 72, the person in charge of administrative affairs of the party as its interim treasurer after the passing of Ahmed Patel.
In a statement, party general secretary KC Venugopal said, “(The move is) an interim measure to look after the duties of treasurer with immediate effect.’’
The move is being seen by Congress members as a makeshift arrangement till a permanent Congress President is elected by early next year and chooses a new team. Bansal was the only one immediately able to step intothe role on account of having worked closely with Motilal Vora, who was Congress treasurer between 2002 and 2018 , when his advancing age (he is now 92) forced him to hand over to Patel. There was great urgency to find an able replacement as treasurer, party members said.
According to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms earlier this year, the Congress reported Rs 918 crore of income in 2018-19, which is 361% more than its income in the previous financial year. A former functionary who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the party spends Rs 5-10 crore a month on just general administrative expenses.
Traditionally, the post of treasurer has always gone to a seasoned hand with plenty of contacts in states. Bansal is expected to work closely with Chief Ministers such as Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Punjab’s Amarinder Singh .
”There are two people who sign cheques for a party. The general secretary of a particular department who clears an expense, and the treasurer. Every expense, from salaries to hiring a chartered flight has to go through them,’’ a former office bearer said on condition of anonymity.
Congress leaders remembered the role Patel played as treasurer and senior strategist. “ A treasurer has to not only have the trust and confidence of diverse stakeholders, but the ability to influence, cajole, persuade, pressurise or otherwise ensure that they contribute. These include members of the party as much as non members. He also has to have the knack to create, maintain and sustain long term relationships, irrespective of political ups and downs, Above all, he needs to have the implicit trust of the party on whose behalf he acts and receives. In all this, AP excelled! He was a natural treasurer, though his long innings as a political secretary eclipsed his talents in this role,’’ Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manusinghvi said on Friday.
Bansal was rail minister in the United Progressive Alliance government but stepped down in 2013 after his nephew was allegedly caught accepting a bribe of almost Rs 90 lakhs for posting an officer on the Railway Board. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) didn’t find any evidence against the minister but charged his nephew Vijay Singla.The Enforcement Directorate filed a chargesheet in the case last month.