G. Venkatswami dropped; Oscar Fernandes promoted as General Secretary; P. Chidambaram, a permanent invitee
There was no generational shift nor, indeed, any dramatic changes as Congress President Sonia Gandhi finally reconstituted the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's apex body, and the Secretariat on Friday. Even though a little over a third of the CWC members, including the Permanent and Special Invitees to the CWC, were dropped, three of the nine general secretaries and half the secretaries were replaced. A senior party leader commented on the changes:“It is never a complete departure from the past.” The message, if there was one, was change with continuity.
Of course, casting a shadow over the long overdue changes was the death of party veteran – a former Union Minister, Chief Minister and Governor – Arjun Singh, within hours of being dropped. Another party veteran and former Union Minister Mohsina Kidwai also was dropped from the CWC. Both were accommodated as Permanent Invitees to the CWC in what is seen as a transitional move. Ms. Kidwai is not general secretary anymore and is only in charge of the Mahila Congress now. On the other hand, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram made an entry into the CWC, though as a Permanent Invitee.
There were, of course, some sub-texts: for instance, unhappiness with the leaders on both sides of the divide in the politically turbulent Andhra Pradesh was reflected in the dropping of G.Venkatswamy and V. Kishore Chandra Deo from the CWC, and of K. Keshava Rao and N. Janardhana Reddy from the Permanent Invitees to the CWC. Mr. Venkatswamy's exit was foretold, having said publicly last month that the Congress had no future under Ms. Gandhi's leadership.
On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh, due to go to the polls in 2012, got a leg up: Mohan Prakash and new Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma are now Permanent Invitees to the CWC, while MPs Raj Babbar and Nirmal Khatri are now Special Invitees to the CWC. Mr. Prakash entered the big league, being given charge of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir.
Other CWC members who were dropped included Mallikarjuna Kharge and V. Narayanaswamy – both Ministers at the Centre – and Prithviraj Chavan, now Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Mr. Narayanaswamy and Mr. Chavan are also no longer general secretaries. However, this is not a case of an application of the ‘one man, one post' principle, as Ghualm Nabi Azad and Mukul Wasnik continue to be both CWC members and general secretaries in charge of the key States.
Mr. Azad will not only remain in charge of the election-bound State of Tamil Nadu and Union territory Puducherry, he now also gets to manage the politically volatile Andhra Pradesh. Mr. Wasnik will handle Rajasthan.
Oddly enough, Ms. Gandhi changed the party functionaries in charge of two of the four poll-bound States - Kerala and West Bengal. Ms. Kidwai, in charge of Kerala, was replaced by the former Lok Sabha Chief Whip and tribal leader from Gujarat, Madhusudan Mistry, who has also been made a CWC member and general secretary in charge of Kerala, Karnataka and Lakshadweep. Instead of Keshava Rao, who was in charge of West Bengal, party spokesperson and former Union Minister Shakeel Ahmed, now also a Permanent Invitee to the CWC, has been given charge of West Bengal, Jharkhand and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The new entrants to the CWC are Oscar Fernandes, earlier a Permanent Invitee to the CWC; Rajya Sabha MP Birendra Singh, who is seen as a counterweight to Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda; dalit leader from Himachal Pradesh Dhani Ram Shandil; Hemo Prova Saikia from Assam; Orissa tribal leader Sushila Tiriya; and Mr. Mistry.
Other entrants to the CWC as Permanent Invitees include the former Nagaland Chief Minister, S. C. Jamir; the former Union Minister M. V. Rajashekharan (from Karnataka); Gulchain Singh Charak; Shivajirao Deshmukh; Jagmeet Singh Brar; and Jagdish Tytler.
Motilal Vora continues as party treasurer and Rahul Gandhi, B. K. Hariprasad, Digvijay Singh and Janardan Dwivedi continue as general secretaries. Mr. Gandhi, who earlier had two secretaries, MPs Meenakshi Natarajan and Jitendra Singh, attached to his office, now has a third from Kerala – Shanimol Usman.