Sonia shuffles her team

The Congress has retained Ghulam Nabi Azad in the CWC besides inducting GS Charak in the central committee. Though Saifudin Soz does not figure in the list, he will be happy to get a free hand in J&K as his bete noire has been kept out of state. Iftikhar Gilani reports.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday re-jigged her team bringing cheers to Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad camp in Jammu and Kashmir. Not only was Azad re-inducted in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and in the panel of general secretaries, he also managed to get a coveted birth for Gulchain Singh Charak in the CWC, the party’s highest decision making body.

While Azad as general secretary has been made in-charge of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh, Charak is in charge of Bihar, Punjab and Chandigarh.

Their bete noire PCC Chief Prof. Saifuddin Soz has been relieved from central duties as he does not figure in the re-jigged CWC, indicating that party has given up attempts to project him a Muslim face at national level, the position he had accrued by voting against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government in 1999. He may, however, draw solace that Congress high command has shrewdly kept Azad and Charak out of Jammu and Kashmir to give him a free hand.

Further, in case of the implementation of one-man-one-post formula at the Centre, as advocated by Rahul Gandhi, Soz could be tipped again to represent Jammu and Kashmir in the cabinet. Azad’s hands would be full, with Tamil Nadu and Puducherry going to polls. Mohan Prakash, a light weight dropped as secretary but elevated as a permanent invitee to the CWC, has been given the major responsibility as in-charge of three key states – Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir. A leader from Banaras, UP, he is rising in the party, since drifting from the Janata Dal. Assisting him will be Ashok Tanwar and Abdul Mannan Ansari.

Congress president has booted out one-third to infuse new blood at all levels – general secretaries, secretaries and the highest decision-making Congress Working Committee (CWC) – retaining Ahmed Patel, 61, as her political secretary and veteran Motilal Vora, 82, as the AICC treasurer.

The list also shows two senior union ministers — Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Social Justice Minister Mukul Wasnik – drafted for the organisational work by retaining them as the general secretaries, indicating that they will be dropped from the government in the reshuffle in May. Also removed from the CWC is Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, indicating of his exit from the Cabinet too in May.

While Rahul Gandhi continues to be the General Secretary number one, three of the nine new general secretaries are former Gujarat MP Madhusudan Mistry an appendage of former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, Rao Birender Singh, Rajya Sabha member from Haryana, and old hand, back in position Oscar Fernandes. Dropped are Mohsina Kidwai, V Narayanasamy and Prithviraj Chavan.

Sonia Gandhi has also removed veterans Arjun Singh and Mohsina Kidwai as members of the 19-strong CWC, relegating them as permanent secretaries and dropping altogether detractor G Venkataswami who hit headlines recently mounting an attack on her publicly.

There are 10 new faces among 17 permanent invitees to the CWC while seven have been dropped and they include former union minister and J&K PCC Chief Prof Saifuddin Soz, union ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and M Veerappa Moily, N Janardan Reddy, spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi and CK Jaffer Sharief.

NO NEW RESPONSIBILITY TO RAHUL GANDHI: The 40-year old heir apparent Rahul Gandhi still appears to be not prepared to shoulder bigger responsibilities as he has been allotted the same old responsibility as the in-charge general secretary for Youth Congress and student wing NSUI, with three secretaries in tow: MPs Meenakshi Natarajan, Jitendra Singh and Ms Shanimol Usman.

The 63-year old Digvijay Singh, who emerged as the most powerful general secretary in the team, continues with the same responsibilities as the general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh and Assam and gets the added job of handling publicity and publications.

Another general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, the speech-writer of Sonia, appears to lose the coveted post as chairman of the AICC media department as the new responsibilities bestowed upon him are of organisation and organisational elections that were hitherto handled by Oscar Fernandes, training programme and coordination. Another general secretary B K Hariprasad retains charge of Madhya Pradesh besides getting responsibility of Chhattisgarh and Haryana while losing responsibility of Goa and Gujarat.

(The author is a senior staffer at Tehelka.com)

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