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HindustanTimes Fri,28 Nov 2014

Will cabinet reshuffle win trust for Cong?

Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 27, 2012
First Published: 23:42 IST(27/10/2012) | Last Updated: 01:14 IST(28/10/2012)

An increasingly jaded Congress needs a facelift that isn't possible without a generational shift. Ministerial changes slated for Sunday will at once unveil the contours of the proposed overhaul in the party organisation.

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That the two exercises are inter-linked became evident from resignations of four cabinet ministers and a minister of state on the eve of the reshuffle in which a host of junior ministers could get independent charge or even cabinet rank. The exercise was long over-due and comes in the runup to assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat where the Congress is locked in a straight contest with the BJP.

The polls in Himachal where the Congress hopes to defeat the BJP are crucial as they'd determine whether the scam-disabled UPA would spend the remaining part of its tenure as a lame-duck entity or a functional regime. A defeat in Himachal might not kill the combine, but it certainly will rob it of the clout so crucial for formulating and enforcing policy.

For its part, the BJP's leaving nothing to chance to come at the top in the Hill State. But the party's decision to back Nitin Gadkari amid charges of corporate malfeasance has dented its anti-graft plank against the Congress's frontline campaigner, Virbhadra Singh.

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Sources in the Congress discount the possibility of Rahul Gandhi, whose involvement in the proposed changes is hard to miss, joining the Manmohan Singh government. But they see a bigger role for the Gandhi family scion in party affairs.

It's in this context that resignations of senior ministers, including Ambika Soni and Mukul Wasnik, acquire political import. New teams on the government and the organisation side will be a mix of youth and experience.

The planned shakeup has drawn comparisons with the 1963 Kamaraj Plan named after K Kamaraj, then chief minister of Madras state (now Tamil Nadu). But that exercise, blessed by Pandit Nehru, was way bigger, entail as it did Union minister and chief ministers.

It also led to the elevation of Kamaraj - three-time CM known for his political prowess - as president of the Indian National Congress. The one now in the pipeline could be a precursor to a younger and less experienced Rahul's promotion in the party hierarchy.

The Kamaraj plan was meant to revitalise the Congress in the backdrop of the Chinese aggression. The generational change in the works now is geared to steer the party out of the crisis of confidence and credibility caused by a welter of scams highlighted by an aggressive civil society.

But, regaining popular trust wouldn't be easy for the Congress, what with elections due in Delhi and the BJP-ruled MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Karnataka before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Its adversaries will spare no effort to sully further its image. 

Organisational changes wouldn't therefore help without a matching work code. Changing faces isn't enough. The Congress needs a personality makeover.

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