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Sonia to reshuffle AICC after winter session

She needs to fill the vacancy created when Ambika Soni, who shifts from the organisation to the Govt, reports Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2006 23:35 IST
Saroj Nagi

A long agenda awaits Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the winter session of Parliament ends on December 19.

On the organisational front, Sonia has to address the long pending issue of a reshuffle in the AICC set up and corrects some aberrations. She needs to fill the vacancy created when Ambika Soni was shifted from the organisation to the government in January along with Anand Sharma, party spokesman.

More recently, AK Antony, CWC member in charge of Karnataka, was made Defence Minister and Oscar Fernandes, Minister of State without portfolio and head of the Election Authority, was given charge of the Labour Ministry.

As one of the three AICC spokespersons, general secretary Mukul Wasnik has addressed only one press conference so far, making his appointment irrelevant.

Sonia also has to find a successor to Pranab Mukherjee who quit as PCC chief after the West Bengal assembly elections earlier this year. There is also a big question mark of the kind of role to be assigned to Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi.

Besides dealing with the political fallout of the Afzal Guru hanging issue (on Muslims) and the Sachar panel's recommendations for muslims (on Hindus), Sonia faces three main challenges relating to the party's relations with the UPA government and the masses.
 
After setting the stage for a reduction in fuel prices, the Congress chief has to ensure that prices of essential items are reined in, problems of farmers and agrarian distress dealt with, and the party-government communication gap bridged so that the organisation can draw political mileage from the UPA's pro-people initiatives relating to  right to information,  Bharat Nirman and rural employment, specially in UP and  Bihar  where the Congress' negligible presence leaves it out of the reckoning in the 120 Lok Sabha seats. 

In line with Sonia's directive, Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi has briefed the Congress MPs on the UPA's flagships programmes ahead of their interactions with the ministers in charge and their pre-Budget consultations with Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

This issue of price rise issue and farmers' suicides undermines the Congress claim to represent the 'aamaadmi' (its slogan in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls), affect the party's prospects in the forthcoming assembly elections in  Punjab, Uttaranchal and UP and dent the image of the Singh government which has completed half of its five year term.

There is worry that the issue of farmers' suicides and price rise continues to fester even though the matter was first taken up by Sonia in June when she called meetings of the CWC and the Congress CMs and then of the Congress CMs' conclave in Nainital in September. The issue resurfaced at Tuesday's CWC when other members joined Mohsina Kidwai in voicing concern over the price of atta, dal and wheat.

The PM, who was present, assured further "appropriate" steps to tackle the issue. But, he recalled, that the UPA has empowered state governments to take action. 

Sonia's prescription for dealing with these problems included strengthening the PDS and revitalising agriculture by implementing the Swaminathan report. She also directed her MPs to closely monitor the working of the job guarantee and other pro-people initiatives of the Government and to keep a close watch on the consumer prices of essential commodities.

Email Saroj Nagi: snagi@hindustantimes.com