Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pre-Diwali shuffle buzz in Congress

New Delhi, Oct. 16: In Congress circles, the big talk now is about change.

Party sources said a major exercise was under way for an organisational makeover and Sonia Gandhi might finally overcome her reluctance to make drastic changes in the command structure and give a fresh look to her team before Diwali.

The Congress chief is said to be determined to strictly follow the one-man-one-post principle, which itself will create many vacancies in the AICC as many ministers in the Manmohan Singh government are also party general secretaries.

Apart from this, Sonia also wants to introduce younger faces to build the leadership for the future, keeping in mind the 2014 general election.

A large number of state Congress presidents will also be changed, according to the sources.

Congress insiders claimed that though Sonia might have been hesitant in dropping team members in the past, she was now prepared to take tough decisions. "She is very strong now. The government is stable, Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a big force and her own supremacy in the party is unchallenged. If she can't take decisions for the future of the party now, she can't ever," an AICC functionary said.

The party's high command structure has largely remained unchanged for a long time, with the same old faces being given new responsibilities in the shuffles that have taken place. "At least half the existing general secretaries may be changed. At the AICC secretary-level, there will be a much bigger shake-up," a senior leader told The Telegraph.

He said nobody except Sonia knew what shape the AICC would finally take, but it appeared to be a big exercise at the moment.

The general secretaries who hold dual positions are Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik, Prithviraj Chavan and V. Narayansamy. The ministers who hold charge of states without being general secretaries are A.K. Antony and Veerappa Moily. These leaders will have to either relinquish their ministerial charge or quit the party post.

Mukul Wasnik may be an exception for some time because he has charge of Bihar, which goes to polls in a week.

The responsibilities of other general secretaries like Rahul, Digvijay Singh, B.K. Hariprasad and Janardhan Dwivedi may also be changed. The leaders who may gain in the shuffle are Satyavrat Chaturvedi, K. Keshava Rao, Oscar Fernandes, Suresh Pachauri, Nirmal Khatri, Begum Noor Bano and Shakil Ahmed. Those who may lose are Mohsina Kidwai, R.K. Dhawan and Dwivedi.

Many secretaries will be dropped and new spokespersons can be appointed, the sources said.

The general secretaries are picked from among the members of the Congress Working Committee, which has to be constituted at the November 2 AICC meeting in Delhi. The party has announced the schedule for the CWC election but the majority view is that no election will take place and the AICC members will authorise Sonia to pick her team. This is despite the fact that Rahul has conveyed to the party brass that he would like elections to pick 12 members of the CWC.

Sources say Sonia is not averse to an election but many senior leaders who have been occupying positions in the high command structure because of their loyalty fear the election will cut them out of the system.

No election has ever taken place under Sonia's leadership so far.

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