Sonia consolidates Rahul’s position with Congress overhaul

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NEW DELHI, Sept 12 (PTI): Sweeping organisational changes in the Congress party are being seen by many leaders as heralding the beginning of a generational shift in the grand old political organisation and several of them said the revamp will consolidate former party president Rahul Gandhi’s position in the party.

An overwhelming number of new appointees across the party’s organisational structure — from the highest decision-making body CWC (Congress Working Committee) to the special committee formed to assist interim party chief Sonia Gandhi — are known as Rahul Gandhi’s confidantes.

The revamp exercise is also a clear signal to the party dissenters that the high-command will not act under pressure, several leaders said.

While Sonia accommodated three of the 23 ginger group members who recently wrote to her seeking large-scale organisational changes, she literally snubbed the main demand of the dissenters regarding elections to the CWC.

The only letter-signatory to have found a major role in the party is Mukul Wasnik, named one of the six members who will assist the Congress president till the next AICC session takes place.

While Wasnik remains a general secretary, several top leaders from the letter-writing group — Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari — have been left high and dry. Azad has been dropped as general secretary but retained in the CWC as a regular member along with Sharma.

Party insiders see the latest reorganisation as a move to lay the ground for the return of Rahul Gandhi to the helm of AICC as and when the next session is held. At least 11 of the 26 permanent invitees to the CWC are known within the party as Rahul Gandhi’s aides. Among the 22 regular CWC members also, the presence of KC Venugopal, Randeep Surjewala, Ajay Maken, Jitendra Singh and RS Meena will serve to strengthen Rahul Gandhi’s hands.

Of the nine special invitees to the CWC, seven are seen as Rahul Gandhi loyalists, while 13 of the 17 in-charges appointed for various states are known as his close associates.

Even among the nine general secretaries, Surjewala, Singh, Venugopal, Maken are known as members of Rahul Gandhi’s group. Some party leaders feel Sonia Gandhi has also used the experience of the old guard and the talent of the young brigade in the new organisational structure.

Former union minister Ashwani Kumar said the organisational changes in the Congress bear the quintessential Sonia Gandhi imprint.

“The announcement signals a balancing of experience, loyalty and youthful energy and a roadmap for generational change. In retaining some of the letter writers in important roles, the leadership has sought to give a quietus to internal dissent while asserting authority,” he told PTI.

Kumar said the appointments indicate the shape of the future leadership of the party and the limited duration of the special committee’s tenure indicates the possibility of a new leadership structure in the near future.

“An overwhelming acceptance by the partymen of the changes shows that the practice of nominations to party posts through a consultative process has found acceptance in the party,” he said.

“The litmus test for Congress, however, is to accurately assess public mood on vital issues and where necessary to change public perceptions in a show of transformative leadership. The future will depend upon the party’s ability to catch the imagination of the people through transformative leadership,” Kumar said. Another leader said, “Sonia Gandhi has done the balancing act of listening to all voices, yet carrying out a generational shift in the party”.

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