As part of the exercise to tone up the party, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi signaled the return to the fold of old Congressmen, beginning with senior Kerala leader K. Karunakaran who met her and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh separately on Sunday.
“Karunakaran is back in the Congress. There was unanimity in the party over his return,” announced AICC general secretary Mohsina Kidwai, who was present during the meeting he had with Gandhi.
Karunakaran pledged to work towards strengthening the organisation, though his son, K. Muraleedharan, has said he would remain NCP state president and would not associate himself with his father’s political line. Karunakaran returned to the Congress after a gap of two-and-half years since he parted ways in the wake of infighting in the state unit.
With Sunday’s development, the Congress chief appears to have adopted a three-pronged approach to strengthen the party. The first is to strengthen the state units either by changing the PCC chiefs or by shoring it up by forming a coordination committee. The second approach is to get back to the return of the old Congressmen, as seen in the case of Karunakaran — others likely to come back include Pawan Dewan and Arvind Netam. The third requires taking a decision on rebels like Lok Sabha MP Kuldeep Bishnoi and his father and former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal.
Post Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh results, she has scheduled a hectic round of campaigning starting January, specially with assembly elections coming up in more than half a dozen states in 2008 and the Lok Sabha polls thereafter.
As the party’s star campaigner, the Congress president would be touring the states polling in 2008. In January, Sonia will tour Punjab, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh where the twin victories in the Sanver assembly seat and the Khargone Lok Sabha constituency has boosted the morale of the party workers in the state.