A file photo of Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. (AFP)
The big impact of the letter, written to Sonia Gandhi calling for an overhaul in the party, is the dropping of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who no longer remains a general secretary although he continues to be a CWC member.
The Congress has gone in for sweeping changes and it is a mixed bag. Party president Sonia Gandhi has adopted a carrot-and-stick policy. Some of the leaders who wrote a letter to her seeking organisational changes in the party have been given opportunities, but the changes send out a clear message — dissent will be accepted up to a limit. And that Rahul Gandhi’s stamp is evident.
In a major party reshuffle, Sonia Gandhi on Friday removed Ghulam Nabi Azad, Motilal Vora, Ambika Soni, Mallikarjun Kharge as All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretaries, and reconstituted the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and appointed P Chidambaram, Randeep Surjewala, Tariq Anwar and Jitendra Singh as its regular members. Gandhi also removed Luizinho Faleiro as AICC general secretary, forming a special committee to assist her in party matters. The new members in the CWC — the party’s highest decision-making body — will replace Faleiro, Vora, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Tamradhwaj Sahu.
From the ‘group of 23’ leaders who had sought the party’s overhaul, Azad and Anand Sharma continue to be regular members of the CWC, while Jitin Prasada has been made a permanent invitee to CWC from being a special invitee earlier. Prasada has also been made in-charge of party affairs in West Bengal.
The big impact of the letter is the dropping of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who no longer remains a general secretary although he continues to be a CWC member. Azad has not even been accommodated in the special committee set up to assist and advise Sonia Gandhi — this body consists of AK Antony, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Randeep Surjewala, Mukul Wasnik and Ahmed Patel.
Among the letter writers, only Wasnik has found a place, but he had been conciliatory at the CWC meeting and has Patel’s blessings as well.
“Some good decisions are being taken, but I will be happy only when the ground situation changes in favour of the Congress party and when block, district and state-level party elections are held and when the work of the real grassroots workers is acknowledged,” Azad told CNN-News18 on Friday.
Behind this terse reaction remains disappointment. An excellent organisation man, loyalist Azad has nothing much going for him after his Rajya Sabha term ends as Kharge could take over as leader of the Upper House.
Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari and Shashi tharoor have also been given the miss although Tewari may be accommodated to an important post soon.
As for Sachin Pilot, he finds no place, much against speculation. But sources say he was not to keen to shift base to Delhi and wants to fight it out in Rajasthan.
The stamp of Rahul Gandhi on the latest appointments is clear. First, the committee that will oversee the election of the new Congress president has young faces — Krishna Byre Gowda, Jothimani and Madhusudan Mistry are close to Rahul Gandhi.
The big gainer has been Surjewala, who is also the head of the party’s media department. He lost out on a Rajya Sabha seat, but has now been made in-charge of the important state of Karnataka. He is also part of the special committee to advise Sonia Gandhi.
The inclusion of Jitin Prasada, another one who wrote the letter, is significant. A Brahmin face, he has now been made in-charge of poll-going West Bengal. Prasada’s great-grandmother is the niece of Rabindranath Tagore.
Two other important names who have been given important places in the CWC are again Rahul’s people — Manickam Tagore and Srinivas. Tagore has also been made in-charge of Telangana.
The message is clear. The Congress top leadership has tried to avert criticism that it was witch-hunting those who wrote the letter. Many of them have been accommodated. But the two believed to be the brain behind the “coup” — Azad and Sharma — have been cut down to size.
A party that has been accused of not building a second rung of leadership is now trying to do just that. Younger ones are being projected and given a chance. However, one criticism remains. The CWC has been reconstituted without an election, which was a demand made by many like Tharoor. But there is a rider — these are temporary changes. A new president is bound to bring in a new team. More importantly, it is then perhaps that the letter writers will be eased out.