The Congress announced a major organisational reshuffle on Friday, an exercise that a section in the party hoped will put a lid on a growing buzz over differences between its younger leaders and the old guard, even as fresh discontent appeared to be brewing over the move.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi formed a five-member special team that will help her in day-to-day matters; reconstituted the party’s Central Election Authority (CEA), which will conduct the organisational polls to elect a new party president; revamped its highest decision-making body, the Central Working Committee (CWC); and removed some key faces, including senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, as general secretaries. However, both of them were retained in CWC.
The reshuffle comes against the backdrop of 23 Congress leaders, including four CWC members (Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and Jitin Prasada), writing a letter to Sonia Gandhi on August 7, and calling for full-time leadership and an introspection behind the “steady decline” of the 135-year-old organisation while outlining 11-point action plan.
The letter-writers, who triggered a flutter and drew flak from the party, had demanded the election of CWC members, and not nomination as announced on Friday.
Some of them did not appear to be satisfied with the changes, and the manner in which they were carried out. “The wisdom of great minds has prevailed. Nomination seems to be the rule and election is not even an exception,” senior leader Kapil Sibal, one of the 23 signatories of the controversial letter, said on Friday.
Manish Tewari, also a letter-writer, cryptically said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. I persevere in the hope that we shall do our duty to protect the idea of India that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar gave their lives for.”
While the four letter-writers, who were part of the CWC, retained their place in the highest decision-making body — an indication, according to some functionaries, that the party leadership was trying to strike a conciliatory note — there appeared to be an infusion of leaders close to Rahul Gandhi in other senior organisational roles across states.
In an August 24 CWC meeting, Sonia Gandhi had asked for a committee to help her in organisational and operational affairs till the next session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) to be held within six months.
The panel that will assist her comprised AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Singh Surjewala, the party’s chief spokesperson. Wasnik was one of signatories of the letter.
The five-member CEA will be headed by Madhusudan Mistry and the members are Rajesh Mishra, Krishna Byre Gowda, S Jothimani and Arvinder Singh Lovely, another of the letter-writers.
The newly inducted general secretaries included Surjewala (Karnataka), Jitendra Singh (Assam) and Tariq Anwar (Kerala and Lakshadweep).
The newly appointed in-charges were Dinesh Gundu Rao (Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Goa), Manickam Tagore (Telangana), Vivek Bansal (Haryana), Pawan Kumar Bansal (administration), Rajeev Shukla (Himachal Pradesh), HK Patil (Maharashtra), Devendra Yadav (Uttarakhand), Manish Chatrath (Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya), Bhakta Charan Das (Mizoram and Manipur), and Kuljit Singh Nagra (Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura).
Digvijaya Singh, Salman Khurshid, Jairam Ramesh, Pramod Tiwari and Chinta Mohan will attend CWC meetings; the body will have 22 members, 26 permanent invitees, and nine special invitees. Former finance minister P Chidambaram was elevated from a permanent invitee to full-time member of the CWC.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi, AK Antony, Ahmed Patel and Ambika Soni, among others, were retained as CWC members.
The restructuring also saw the exit of eight existing CWC members – Motilal Vora, Luizinho Falerio, Tamradhwaj Sahu, Asha Kumari, Gaurav Gogoi, Anugrah Narayan Singh, Ram Chandra Khuntia and Arun Yadav.
Gogoi, who was also dropped as the general secretary incharge of West Bengal, said the decisions were part of a larger change.
“This is a massive exercise and I welcome these changes. This announcement will put a lid on all rumours about camps and young versus senior,” he said.
Prasada, a CWC member and one of the letter-writers, will now look after the party affairs in West Bengal, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Those who were retained as general secretaries were Harish Rawat (Punjab), Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (Uttar Pradesh), Oommen Chandy (Andhra Pradesh), Ajay Maken (Rajasthan), KC Venugopal (organisation). Among the in-charges retained were RPN Singh (Jharkhand), Rajani Patil (Jammu and Kashmir), PL Punia (Chhattisgarh), Shaktisinh Gohil (Bihar and Delhi), A Chellakumar (Odisha), and Rajeev Satav (Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu).
“It’s a new team with both experience and youth. I want to thank Soniaji and Rahulji. In these vicious times, where lies and hate are consuming this country, it’s time for the Congress to rise to the occasion. I’m sure this new team will rise to the occasion,” said Dinesh Gundu Rao.
Manickam Tagore said:“It is going to be a huge challenge. And the leadership has kept the younger team in the battlefield. The policy making body of the CWC has all the senior party leaders for larger issues.”