Congress president Sonia Gandhi sought to activate the party for the Lok Sabha elections by setting up a 21-member high profile manifesto committee and a multi-member campaign committee, and by bringing in three new PCC chiefs in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. The appointments in these states were long overdue.
The new state unit presidents — legislator Siddarth Patel (Gujarat), parliamentarian KV Thangkabalu (Tamil Nadu) and MLA Thakur Kaul Singh (Himachal) — will have the tough task of battling in-house factionalism and groupism while taking on the party’s political adversaries.
Sonia herself will chair the campaign committee, with Pranab Mukherjee as vice-chairman. The latter is expected to head the manifesto committee though the AICC press release is silent on the matter.
Rahul Gandhi makes a debut in both panels — as a member in the manifesto committee and general secretary in charge of frontal organisations in the campaign committee.
The campaign committee includes Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh, AK Antony, Veerappa Moily, Virbhadra Singh, PR Dasmunsi, Vayalar Ravi, Kamal Nath, Meira Kumar, Ambika Soni, Shakeel Ahmed, the general secretaries and state in-charges, party treasurer and some other functionaries.
The manifesto committee includes Arjun Singh, Moily, Digvijay Singh, P Chidambaram, SM Krishna, Margaret Alva, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Mukul Wasnik, Ajit Jogi, Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Salman Khurshid, Arjun Sengupta, Kishore Chandra Deo, G Parmeshwar and RK Nayak.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the Congress chief’s political secretary don’t figure in the committees.
In the appointment of new state unit chiefs, the first sign of trouble is expected to come from Tamil Nadu, where 58-year-old Thangkabalu’s selection could be opposed by Union minister GK Vasan’s faction. “His appointment is very upsetting,” Congress sources said in Chennai.
In Gujarat, the elevation of the son of the late Chimanbhai Patel, Siddharth, brings back a Patel at the helm after almost a decade. He has been given two working presidents in Tusharbhai Choudhary (tribal) and Kunwarjibhai Mohanbhai Bavalia (OBC) to infuse a social and regional balance in the team. In Himachal, Sonia has brought the second rung leadership upfront with Kaul’s elevation.
(With inputs from Saroj Nagi, Archana Phull, MR Venkatesh and Rathin Das)