Congress considers state units’ revival, may boost satraps
This will be the first reshuffle after Sonia Gandhi assumed the reins of the 133-year-old organisation on August 10, albeit in an interim role.Updated: Oct 31, 2019, 03:37 IST
The Congress’s surprisingly good showing in Haryana has prompted party president Sonia Gandhi to think of a reshuffle of the party organisation with a focus on communication and strengthening regional satraps, a party functionary familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.
This will be the first reshuffle after Sonia Gandhi assumed the reins of the 133-year-old organisation on August 10, albeit in an interim role.
She took over after her son and the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi refused to take back his resignation dated May 25, soon after the party’s drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections in which it won just 52 seats.
While the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision making body of the party, too is expected to be revamped, several state units will see a change of guard. These includes units in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, the functionary cited above said.
A number of Congress leaders have previously submitted their resignations to share accountability with Rahul Gandhi for the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls.
They included general secretaries Jyotiraditya Scindia (western Uttar Pradesh), Harish Rawat (Assam), and Dipak Babaria (Madhya Pradesh), legal cell head Vivek Tankha, farmer cell chief Nana Patole, chairman of the scheduled castes department Nitin Raut, and state unit presidents N Raghuveera Reddy (Andhra Pradesh), Niranjan Patnaik (Odisha) and Girish Chodankar (Goa).
Then Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora and Uttar Pradesh unit head Raj Babbar too resigned from their positions. Deora was replaced by Eknath Gaikwad as the Mumbai Congress acting chief, Ajay Kumar Lallu succeeded Babbar in Uttar Pradesh.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath too, has already requested Sonia Gandhi to relieve him of the responsibilities as the state unit chief, as has Delhi in-charge PC Chacko.
To be sure, this isn’t the first time the Congress has considered reviving state units, strengthening regional satraps and generally getting its act together.
The big change could be at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) level. The functionary quoted above said the AICC in-charge of communications Randeep Singh Surjewala is likely to be elevated as a general secretary and may be given charge of a state.
Soon after he lost from Kaithal in the Haryana elections, Surjewala changed his Twitter bio to remove a description of him being the in-charge of party’s communications department and instead mentioned his role as a permanent invitee to the CWC.
In his place, the names of senior leaders Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma and Ajay Maken are doing the rounds.
The reshuffle could also see several general secretaries being replaced, the functionary said. And several states will have new people in charge, he added.
For instance, the general secretary in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, Oommen Chandy, actually spends much of his time in his home state Kerala and general secretary in-charge of Haryana Ghulam Nabi Azad is not keen on looking after the affairs of the state, according to their close aides.
Both Chandy and Azad could not be reached for their comments.
The functionary said the leadership is also considering mulling trimming the existing team of 64 secretaries and doing away with the concept of having working presidents as it has resulted in “creation of too many power centres” in states.
Political analysts said the Congress must realise that its revival at the national level largely depends on the resurgence in states and for that the party should strengthen the regional satraps.
“There is a lesson for the Congress from Maharashtra and Haryana elections. Congress should give a free hand to its regional leaders and stop creating proxies with no support base. We saw it in Punjab, Rajasthan and now in Haryana. It is on the basis of strong regional leaders that the Congress can revive itself,” said Professor Rajendra Sharma, head of the political sciences department, Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak.