The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia set to shuffle party posts for polls

New Delhi, Jan. 16: Sonia Gandhi may effect some changes in her AICC team as part of the ongoing organisational fine-tuning to gear up the Congress machinery for next year’s general elections.

The party headquarters is agog with talks on who could be in and who could be out when the Congress president concludes her makeover of the state units and turns attention on 24 Akbar Road.

As of now, it appears that a few general secretaries may have to make way for some not-so-new-faces. According to party insiders, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was sent to Jammu and Kashmir months before the Assembly elections in October to head the party there, is likely to make a comeback as general secretary.

With his appointment as chairman of the Congress-PDP coalition’s coordination committee, Azad thinks he need not hold on to the post of the state party chief.

Sonia’s move to entrust Azad with the delicate task of bringing about a smooth leadership change in Maharashtra is being seen as a precursor to his imminent recall to national politics.

In the process, the sources said, Mohsina Kidwai might lose her general secretaryship.

Motilal Vora, who now doubles as general secretary and party treasurer, might be asked to give up one of them, probably the job of handling funds.

The post of treasurer might return to Ahmad Patel, now one of the two political secretaries to the Congress president — the other being Ambika Soni, also a general secretary.

Former Union ministers G. Venkataswamy and Buta Singh are believed to be eyeing organisational posts. Venkataswamy was a general secretary a few years ago.

Apparently, there is no vacancy at the general secretary-level. The sources said they could be inducted only if Sonia decided to remove a few general secretaries from the present set of AICC office bearers.

There is speculation that Vilasrao Deshmukh, who made way for Sushil Kumar Shinde as Maharashtra chief minister today, might be accommodated as a general secretary.

Besides, the party chief might also reallocate states among the general secretaries. It is being said Soni is “overburdened” with the responsibility of several key election-bound states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, apart from her work as a political secretary.

Soni herself does not accept this argument and says she is ready to shoulder any responsibility entrusted by the party chief.

Nevertheless, given the importance of the Assembly elections in these states for the Congress’ preparations for next year’s Lok Sabha elections, the sources said Sonia might reduce Soni’s burden.

The party chief was also said to be inclined to review the functioning of several secretaries attached to the general secretaries and some of them who held independent charges like Mani Shankar Aiyar and Ramesh Chennithala.

Insiders said many of these secretaries do not have enough work — some even do not turn up at the headquarters for long periods — and their services could be better utilised elsewhere, especially in their respective states.

While the likely changes are largely within the AICC circles, party spokesman Jaipal Reddy confirmed that the Congress Working Committee has authorised Sonia to undertake all necessary changes in the set-up at both the PCC and AICC levels.

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