Sonia’s agenda: Revamping party at centre, state
After the second round of swearing in of the Manmohan Singh government on Thursday, next on Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s agenda is the revamping of the party, both at the Central and state levels.
The party is likely to have as many full-time office-bearers to handle state politics as possible. For, barring stray exceptions where their presence may help the organisation, the practice of drafting in ministers for party work is likely to be given a go-by.
One indication of this is the non-inclusion of Oscar Fernandes in the council of ministers. The Karnataka leader, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha, is an organisational pivot and is often assigned by the party and the government to trouble-shoot.
The party has lost all India Congress Committee general secretaries Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik to the government. Another loss to the party is Veerappa Moily, but role as the media department chairperson was in any case taken over by Janardan Dwivedi.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony has been given the charge of the Maharashtra unit of the party, while the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee remains in the hands of Pranab Mukherjee. But Mallikarjun Kharge is a loss to the Karnataka Congress. He was the Legislative Party leader before he contested the polls.
With the Congress getting 206 seats in the Lok Sabha, party leaders believe that a more focused attention would enable the Congress to get a majority on its own next time round.
AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s decision to avoid any government assignment illustrates this. He has repeatedly spurned even the PM’s offer to join the government. He will focus on reviving and democratising the party instead.
There are at least four states where the Congress needs to rebuild itself — UP, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, which together account for 202 Lok Sabha seats. It also has to strengthen itself in Karnataka.