Special Correspondent

Working president’s post to go: Dasmunsi

Hints at a possible alliance with Trinamool Congress

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Wednesday announced the appointment of Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affairs Priyaranjan Dasmunsi as the president of the West Bengal unit. Senior leader Pranab Mukherjee had resigned from the post in 2006 after the party lost the elections to the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz was made the Jammu and Kashmir Congress Committee Chief, while Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Personnel Suresh Pachauri will head the Madhya Pradesh unit of the Congress. Assembly elections are due this year in these two States.

Signalling a generational shift in the party, Ajay Singh, son of senior Congress leader and Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, will be the Chairman of the Campaign Committee of Madhya Pradesh.

According to sources, Mr. Dasmunsi and Mr. Pachauri will have to give up one of their portfolios in the Council of Ministers, paving the way for a Cabinet reshuffle. “Those who hold two portfolios will have to relinquish one charge. The party will decide which portfolio the Minister would have to shed,” said a senior AICC leader.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi approved the appointments after intensive consultations with the general secretaries in charge of the States, “so that they are accountable” for their performance, the sources said.

Mr. Pachauri, whose fourth Rajya Sabha term ends in May this year, will replace senior leader Subhash Yadav. Party sources said Mr. Yadav would also be entrusted with a responsible position soon. Mr. Soz, who has made it to the post despite opposition in the State, will get to keep his Cabinet rank portfolio. He will replace Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed, who resigned in the wake of corruption charges levelled against him.

He is said to have a good equation with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is a coalition partner of the ruling Congress in the State.

Mr. Dasmunsi said the Working President’s post would now cease to exist in West Bengal. His priority would be to fight against CPI(M) “misrule” even though it is a supporting party of the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre.

“The traditional rivalry will continue, but I’ll strengthen the party’s position to score over them.”

On an alliance with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, he said that in a democracy building bridges with secular forces was a priority.

“On many issues, the Trinamool Congress had taken the secular line. There are some grey areas but they did not vote with the National Democratic Alliance in the Presidential election.”

Mr. Dasmunsi said he will hold a meeting with Congress leaders in the State on February 15, after which he will campaign for the party in Tripura.

On shedding a portfolio, he said he would abide by the decision taken by Ms. Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but hinted that it was possible to deliver both.