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Rahul awaits popular demand

New Delhi, Jan. 6: Two days after getting back from her overseas vacation, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi recast the All India Congress Committee, including the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

Rahul Gandhi did not figure on the list of 20 CWC members nominated by Sonia. The five vacancies that remain in the 25-member committee will be filled after the Hyderabad plenary later this month, general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi said.

Sources said Rahul’s nomination is a certainty after he goes through the time-honoured rites of passage that precede the formal induction of a Gandhi-Nehru family member in the Congress body.

It is expected that there will be a clamour for him in the plenary with the slogan “Rahul lao, desh bachao”.

Sonia nominated her team of office-bearers, including the general secretaries and secretaries, allocated their work areas and named the heads of the departments and cells. Oscar Fernandes was made temporary head of the frontal organisations.

The sources said the post was being kept warm for Rahul who will take charge of the Youth Congress, National Students’ Union of India, Intuc, Seva Dal and the Congress women’s wing.

Among those dropped from the CWC are former foreign minister K. Natwar Singh, who got embroiled in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal, M.L. Fotedar, a long-time family loyalist, and Salman Khursheed. Ghulam Nabi Azad and Vilasrao Deshmukh had to go out as they became chief ministers.

Among the eight general secretaries, there is not a single minority leader. Sources explained the exclusion as “simply coincidental” and drew attention to the nomination of Saifuddin Soz, Mohsina Kidwai, C.K. Jaffer Sharief and Noor Bano as CWC members and permanent invitees.

While Rahul’s nomination seemed a formality, members of the party’s “baba log brigade” stuck out like sore thumbs in a team packed with veterans. Other than Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was retained as a special CWC invitee, the only significant “young” entry was Siddharth Patel, the son of late Gujarat chief minister Chimanbhai Patel.

Sonia’s intention to build a new line of leaders was reflected in making B.K. Hariprasad, an OBC member of Karnataka, a general secretary in recognition of the hard work he put in the elections in Goa, Rajasthan and Bihar.

Ajit Jogi, the controversial former Chhattisgarh chief minister, was kept as a permanent CWC member.

Since the AICC changes were linked to the prospective shuffle of the Union ministry, the sources said it appeared “certain” Ambika Soni would not go to the government. She has kept her old responsibility as general secretary, as have other Sonia loyalists like Ahmed Patel, Janardhan Dwivedi and Motilal Vora.

Rajya Sabha MP Karan Singh was made chairman of the foreign affairs department, a post which lay vacant after Natwar joined the cabinet.

Jayanthi Natarajan will be a secretary as well as an official spokesperson. Rajiv Shukla and Jairam Ramesh were also appointed secretaries.

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