The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Infighting axe hovers over Sonia satraps

New Delhi, Feb. 9: Prolonged bickering in the Andhra Pradesh and Uttaranchal Congress may prompt Sonia Gandhi to go in for top-level changes in the two units.

The Congress president is understood to have taken up for review the functioning of the two units after appointing a PCC president in Karnataka a couple of days ago. The party chiefs in the two states are likely to be replaced after the coming elections in four states, party sources said.

Uttaranchal Congress chief Harish Rawat has been involved in a running spat with chief minister N.D. Tiwari ever since he lost the race for the top post a year ago. Their clash has confused the rank and file. Tiwari has argued his case for Rawat’s replacement, said the sources, adding that his demand has been strengthened by the party’s recent success in the local elections.

While the need for coordination between the government and the party is being cited as a reason for seeking Rawat’s replacement, there is another strong consideration as well. Both Tiwari and Rawat hail from the same region — Kumaon. Hence, the central leadership is coming round to the view that Rawat should make way for some leader from Garhwal.

The name of Satpal Maharaj, a former Union minister from the Garhwal region, is being mentioned as a possible successor to Rawat.

Satpal is believed to be lobbying for the job with the central leaders, including Motilal Vora, who is in charge of state affairs.

However, the situation in Andhra Pradesh is more complicated. PCC chief Satyanarayana Rao does not get along with any of the senior leaders, be it legislature party leader Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, former chief ministers N. Janardhana Reddy and N. Bhaskara Rao or P. Shiv Shankar and Hanumantha Rao.

Rajasekhara Reddy and Shiv Shankar have conveyed their displeasure with the party chief to Sonia in writing. Shiv Shankar has even sought her permission to sue Satyanarayana Rao for alleged contemptuous public outbursts against him.

While each of these leaders has sought the removal of the “ineffective” PCC chief, they are divided on the choice of a successor, the sources said.

The party high command is in a dilemma: it is willing to consider Satyanarayana Rao’s replacement but does not know who to pick as the successor.

Party general secretary in charge of the state Vayalar Ravi, who has been busy effecting twin leadership changes in Maharashtra and a PCC chief’s appointment in Karnataka, may soon have to initiate the difficult task of consensus-building on a new party chief in Andhra Pradesh as well.

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