The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia spares Girija stick

New Delhi, Jan. 24: Sonia Gandhi tonight ended the four-week-long Rajasthan suspense by retaining Girija Vyas as state unit chief and clearing a proposal to appoint two deputy chief ministers in the Ashok Gehlot ministry.

The undeclared reprieve for Vyas belied intense speculation of an imminent change of guard in the state party wing.

Two media statements detailing Sonia’s Rajasthan political package did not specifically mention Vyas or any change in her status but AICC sources hinted that she would stay in the post “for now”.

A 15-member coordination committee, announced by Sonia to improve interaction between the government and the party, mentions the state Congress president as one of its members without expressly naming Vyas.

The AICC sources said the party president intended no further changes in the state for the time being, implying that Vyas has won the reprieve and would continue in her position till the November Assembly elections.

Chief minister Gehlot, who could not get along with the state Congress chief in the last three years, has been gunning for her scalp.

He almost got the high command’s nod to nominate his Cabinet colleague, B.D. Kalla, as her replacement. But half-a-dozen senior party leaders from the state swung into action earlier this week and made the headquarters aware of their displeasure.

In Sonia’s compromise package, senior ministers Kamla Beniwal, a Jat, and Banwari Lal Bairawa, a Dalit, will be elevated to the rank of deputy chief ministers and Ram Singh Bishnoi will be brought in as the new minister to placate contending caste-led factions ahead of the elections.

Almost all senior leaders who resented the intended move to remove Vyas and virtually sought a review of the chief minister’s leadership have been accommodated in the coordination panel that the AICC general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan, Ambika Soni, will head. They include Natwar Singh, Shiv Charan Mathur, Nawal Kishore Sharma and Shish Ram Ola.

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