Wings clipped, Digvijaya Singh now wants to be relieved of all responsibilities
Digvijaya Singh has already been divested of the charge of the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Telangana.Updated: Aug 07, 2017, 07:17 IST
Even as the organisational changes in Congress are happening in bits and pieces, some senior functionaries have requested the party leadership to relieve them of all responsibilities.
The latest to join the list is outspoken party general secretary Digvijaya Singh, who is set to embark on a six-month “spiritual, personal and apolitical” Narmada Yatra in September.
Singh, who looks after party affairs in Andhra Pradesh, will undertake the 3,300-km yatra, known as Narmada Parikrama (circumambulation), covering parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Once an influential leader in the Congress, the 70-year-old Singh has already been cut to size and divested of the charge of the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Telangana. He had come under fire for his “mishandling” of the post-poll developments in Goa, where the Congress failed to form the government despite emerging as the single largest party. The BJP succeeded in cobbling together a coalition.
Even in Karnataka and Telangana, a rebellion had been brewing in the Congress. Many leaders and legislators from both states had complained to the Congress high command about Singh’s style of functioning and demanded his removal.
Similarly, another general secretary, Ambika Soni, had repeatedly requested the party leadership to reduce her workload in view of her ill-health. She was handling the hill states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
During the Uttarakhand assembly elections in February-March this year, Soni, 74, had taken help from senior colleague Kumari Selja in running party affairs. She later told the party leadership that ill-health will prevent her from travelling in Himachal Pradesh, which goes to polls later this year. The Congress high command accepted her request and relieved her of the charge of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
While she continues to look after the party affairs in J&K, former Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, 75, was appointed general secretary and given charge of Himachal Pradesh.
The third general secretary to having sought a replacement is BK Hariprasad, who had submitted his resignation after the party’s debacle in this year’s panchayat elections in Odisha. The Congress leadership is worried over the BJP’s expanding foothold in the eastern state as evident from the outcome of the panchayat polls. The BJP pushed the Congress to third spot and occupied the space of the principal opposition party.
The vote share of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) also dropped. Of the total 846 zilla parishad seats for which polls were held in five phases from February 13, the BJD won 473 while the BJP bagged 297 and the Congress managed to win just 60.
While Hariprasad, 63, continues to hold charge of Odisha, the Congress leadership divested him of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and gave the charge to PL Punia and RPN Singh respectively.
Prior to them, senior general secretary Janardan Dwivedi had on August 28, 2014, suggested that party leaders beyond 65 years of age should not hold important organisational posts. “I am not saying they should retire but posts which require a lot of running around and physical capacity should be held by young people. Elders should keep away from active posts and take up other responsibilities,” he had said.
Dwivedi, 71, had then made the remark in the backdrop of the BJP’s move to drop veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi from the party’s parliamentary board.
His colleague, Jairam Ramesh, had also once proposed that leaders above 70 years of age should retire from active politics.