In a major organisational overhaul, Congress drops some of its senior-most leaders from its list of party general secretaries. The biggest casualty of the day was Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The changes come against the backdrop of a leadership crisis, an issue that was taken up in a recent meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
In wake of the August 24 CWC meet held after a section of Congress leaders demanded party reforms, Congress’ interim President Sonia Gandhi has set up a special six-member panel to assist her and accommodated one of the “dissenters” in it, while reconstituting the Working Committee – the party’s highest decision-making body.
“Congress President has constituted a special committee, with following members to assist the Congress President in organisational and operational matters as expressed by her in the CWC meeting,” said a party release.
Mukul Wasnik, one of the signatories to the letter for reforms, has found place in the special committee which is otherwise dominated by loyalists – A.K. Antony, Ahmed Patel, K.C. Venugopal, Ambika Soni, and Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Along with Azad four others—Motilal Vora, Ambika Soni, Mallikarjun Kharge and Luizinho Faleiro – too were removed from the post of general secretaries. Of these five, only Vora and Faleiro were dropped from the CWC list.
New inductees to the top decision making body include former finance minister P. Chidambaram, Surjewala, Jitendra Singh and Tariq Anwar. Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury does not figure in the reconstituted list but is part of the permanent invitee list. Chowdhury was recently appointed chief of the party’s West Bengal unit.
In the CWC rejig, Rajeev Shukla and Pramod Tiwari have found place but surprise entry is Tariq Anwar who has been made a General Secretary, while Ghulam Nabi Azad has been stripped of the post.
The reconstituted CWC will have 22 leaders, while there will be 26 permanent invitees and 10 special invitees.
The Central Election Authority will be now headed by Madhusudan Mistry, who replaces Wasnik, while Arvinder Singh Lovely, who was one of the signatories, has also found place in it.
The changes come in wake of the letter written by the dissenters and the stormy CWC in which loyalists cornered the signatories.
During the CWC meeting, former party chief Rahul Gandhi had targeted the dissenters and questioned the timing of the letter. Sonia Gandhi, however, offered to step down from the top post but former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked her to continue.
It was finally decided that she will continue to head the Congress till a new party session is organised and a special committee will come to assist her in leadership functions.
“These changes were long pending and there was a growing demand within the party that changes should be effected. In a way it lays ground for the impending selection of a new Congress president, as Gandhi had mentioned in the previous CWC meeting,” a senior leader of the party said requesting anonymity. “The formation of the special committee is expected to take care of the concerns that were being raised in recent times, including assisting the Congress president in the daily affairs of the party. The changes made on Friday reflect an attempt to balance the old guard and young leadership in the party,” this leader added.