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Cong finds Brajesh in Dixit

New Delhi, May 2: Former foreign secretary J.N. Dixit and veteran Rajasthan leader Nawal Kishore Sharma emerged as surprise gainers today as Congress president Sonia Gandhi reshuffled the party organisation.

She clipped the wings of Ambika Soni, Motilal Vora and Kamal Nath while entrusting additional responsibilities to Ahmed Patel.

Dixit, who joined the Congress late last year, was inducted as vice-chairman of the AICC’s foreign affairs department, though it will continue to be headed by Natwar Singh, another former diplomat. Dixit’s new power will come mainly from his role as the exclusive coordinator on all national security issues — perhaps a kind of shadow national security adviser. Dixit, in effect, will be the Congress’ answer to the A.B.Vajpayee government’s Brajesh Mishra, the national security adviser.

Dixit was also included in the 12-member Kashmir Affairs Committee Sonia set up under Manmohan Singh.

Sharma, the other unexpected winner in Sonia’s delicate pre-poll balancing act, returned as a member of the Congress Working Committee and also as an AICC general secretary.

He was put in charge of party affairs in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, both of which were with Vora, who will remain party treasurer.

Soni, too, got the curt treatment from Sonia. Widely seen as the party’s unofficial number two, Soni lost charge of Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Punjab out of the five states she was entrusted with. She was also ousted as the Congress president’s political secretary.

She is widely considered to have mishandled the recent Rajya Sabha polls in Kerala as also Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi’s ill-advised salvo against the Intelligence Bureau.

Soni, however, was not deprived of the chance of announcing the organisational changes today.

In another consolation, she will remain as party general secretary and continue to hold charge of election-bound Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and Sonia’s office and the media department. Patel, the lone Congress political secretary now, was handed Kerala and Delhi affairs and organisational matters.

Other than these shake-ups, all other general secretaries — Oscar Fernandes, Mohsina Kidwai, Kamal Nath, Vayalar Ravi and Mukul Wasnik — stayed put, though their portfolios were recast.

Like Sharma, R.K. Dhawan returned as general secretary, increasing the number of general secretaries to eight. Dhawan was put in charge of Bihar and Jharkhand affairs.

Kamal Nath, who was divested of Delhi and Gujarat affairs, was given Bengal, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry instead.

Ravi continued with Maharashtra and Karnataka affairs but lost Andhra Pradesh. Kidwai was given Punjab and Assam.

Fernandes lost Jharkhand and Bihar to gain Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur. He would also continue to hold charge of AICC, CWC, party departments and cells.

Wasnik continued to hold charge of party frontal organisations.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was rehabilitated with a seat in the CWC and charge of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh affairs.

As widely speculated, Sonia revived a Rajiv-era panel known as the political affairs committee. She will lead the 12-member panel comprising senior leaders such as Arjun Singh, Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil, Manmohan and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Azad, who will continue as Jammu and Kashmir party chief, was also given charge of Andhra, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. The economic affairs cell, too, was revamped with Jyotiraditya Scindia replacing secretary Jairam Ramesh. Ramesh is now one of the six party secretaries without a portfolio.

Jaipal Reddy will continue as the chief spokesman and sulking former Union minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief was appointed chairman of the minorities’ cell.

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