The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Power poser in Cong shuffle

New Delhi, May 4: Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s election-oriented revamp of the AICC has created some anomalies, the most obvious one being about senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s position.

Azad is a working committee member and the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president. However, after the Friday reshuffle, he has the authority to sit in judgement over the functioning of his counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal in his capacity as the AICC leader in-charge of these states.

This appointment highlighted yet another anomaly. Sonia departed from the norm of making only AICC general secretaries in-charges of party affairs in states when, during her last reshuffle a year ago, she gave Congress treasurer Motilal Vora and secretaries Mani Shankar Aiyar and Ramesh Chennithala the charge of some states.

This year, she moved further away from the norm by giving leaders who are not AICC office-bearers charge of party affairs in states. Azad is one such leader. Another is former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was brought into the working committee and made in-charge of party affairs in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, but is not a general secretary.

Ahmad Patel, her lone political secretary after the latest reshuffle, was made in-charge of Kerala and Delhi affairs.

Salman Khursheed, a special invitee to the working committee, was asked to look after party affairs in Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim.

Chennithala continues as secretary with independent charge of party affairs in several Union Territories.

The Congress president’s departure from practice was obviously dictated by the need to avoid fuelling resentment among second-rung leaders and to give more representation to various communities. Sonia, who was not in a position to appoint the leaders as general secretaries because of the party’s constitutional ceiling on the number of people with such a rank, has accommodated leaders like Azad, Deshmukh and Khursheed by given them virtually the same rank.

However, in view of the electoral challenge before the party, she found it expedient to bring back veteran Rajasthan leader Nawal Kishore Sharma to the working committee, and as a general secretary.

Sharma’s rehabilitation is being perceived in party circles as a signal to woo the influential Brahmin community in Rajasthan ahead of the November Assembly elections. Recently, Brahmins in the state held two rallies — in Bikaner and Jodhpur — urging the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government to ensure reservation for the community.

The recall of Meira Kumar, late Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram’s daughter, to the working committee, is being seen as a step to reinforce the party’s Dalit face.

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