Will head election co-ordination panel

Congress yuvraj Rahul Gandhi will lead the party’s campaign in the next general elections, now less than 18 months away in 2014. Or that was the import of an announcement made on Thursday by the Congress: Mr. Gandhi will head a high-power five-man Election Co-ordination Committee to “oversee all party activities related to the next elections,” a senior functionary told The Hindu.

This committee, along with three sub-groups — on pre-poll alliances, the manifesto and government programmes, and communications and publicity — general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said, was constituted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi following the announcement she made on November 9 at the Samvad Baithak at Surajkund. “With a year and half left for the Lok Sabha elections,” Ms. Gandhi said on that occasion, “both party and government will have to work cohesively together to ensure that we secure a renewed mandate.” In keeping with that assurance, of the 27 persons drafted for pre-election work, 11 are Central ministers.

While the activities listed are not unusual, this is the first time, a senior leader said, the tasks have been given “institutional shape.” And Mr. Gandhi’s de facto number two position now acquires de jure number two status, without disturbing his mother’s role as head of the party — he will have to play Arjun to his mother Krishna. From managing the youth wings, he will move to a more central task in the organisation as it heads into what is one of the toughest elections the grand old party has ever faced in its history. An effort has been made to give the party’s core team for the next elections a younger look: even then, only six of the 27 are below 50.

The other members of the Election Coordination Committee, which has already had one sitting, are Ms. Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, party general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi, Digvijay Singh and Madhusudan Mistry, and Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. Defence Minister A.K. Antony heads the sub-groups on pre-poll alliances and manifesto and government programmes, while Mr. Digvijay Singh heads the communications and publicity sub-group.

Mr. Antony’s colleagues in the pre-poll alliances sub-group are Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily, MoS Jitendra Singh, party general secretary Mukul Wasnik, and party functionaries Suresh Pachauri and Mohan Prakash. The manifesto and government programmes sub-group is the largest: apart from Mr. Antony, Union Ministers P. Chidambaram, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Anand Sharma and Salman Khurshid, party spokespersons Sandeep Dikshit and Renuka Chowdhury, party functionary Ajit Jogi, chairman of the SC Commission P.L. Punia are members. Lastly, those in the communications sub-group, headed by Mr. Digvijay Singh, are senior party leader Ambika Soni, MoSs Manish Tewari, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajeev Shukla, and MPs Deependra Hooda and Bhakta Charan Das.

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