Party bets on Madhusudan Mistry to take the wind out of Modi’s sails

Now, it is the turn of the Congress to play the ‘Gujarat card’ in Uttar Pradesh. The party has appointed Madhusudan Mistry as AICC general secretary in charge of the most politically sensitive State, where Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s close aide Amit Shah has been made in charge of the BJP.

A Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, Mr. Mistry is known for his organisational skills and played an important role in the Congress victory in the Karnataka Assembly election.

Mr. Mistry replaces former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, who held the post for five years and who was among Congress leaders blamed by a section of the party for the party’s poor performance in the 2012 Assembly election.

Congress sources said Mr. Singh’s replacement was a routine exercise as organisational changes were made periodically by the leadership, especially when the Lok Sabha polls are round the corner.

Mr. Mistry’s appointment has taken the State Congress leaders by surprise; apart from his being a member of the central election committee formed at the time of the Assembly election, very little is known about him in Lucknow. But, the Congressmen see vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s stamp in his appointment, which comes within a week of Mr. Shah’s visit to Lucknow. Though the focus will be on strengthening the organisation ahead of the general election, Congressmen believe that Mr. Mistry is the best man to blunt his BJP’s counterpart’s attack on the party.

“Mr. Mistry will expose [Mr.] Amit Shah’s claims about the so-called Gujarat model of development,” said Congress spokesman Dwijendra Tripathi.

Party strategists here believe that the possibility of Mr. Modi, backed by Mr. Shah, playing a pro-active role to shore up the BJP’s fortunes in Uttar Pradesh would help the Congress woo Muslims, who account for 20 per cent of the State’s population. The ruling Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party also vie for the Muslim votes, but Congress leaders feel that in the Lok Sabha election, Muslims are more likely to vote for the Congress than for any other party.

Party sources said Mr. Singh’s ouster had been on the cards ever since AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi replaced eight persons in-charge of zones of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee. The official reason was that they were unable to devote time to organisational issues. However, sources said, Mr. Gandhi was unhappy with their performance and eventually decided to shunt them out.

Mr. Mistry will be assisted by Naseeb Singh, Prakash Joshi, Rana Goswami and Zubair Khan, who have been appointed AICC secretaries and named co-in-charge.