Shashi Tharoor, Sachin Pilot included in revamped Congress Working Committee

Mallikarjun Kharge looks for fine balance in internal democracy, young blood, and changing realities; core body expanded to 39 from the earlier 25; Priyanka finds a place as do nearly all members of the G-23 ginger group

Updated - August 20, 2023 10:43 pm IST

Published - August 20, 2023 02:40 pm IST - New Delhi

File photo of Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge.

File photo of Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Showcasing internal democracy, building new leadership, accommodating youth, and the need to reflect changing social realities are the key themes of the reconstituted Congress Working Committee (CWC) that party president Mallikarjun Kharge announced on Sunday, coinciding with the 79th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor, who was Mr. Kharge’s rival in the party’s presidential elections last October, as well as Sachin Pilot, who rebelled against his own government in Rajasthan, have been made members of the core CWC that has now been expanded to 39 from the earlier 25.

Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are part of the core CWC as the party constitution was amended at the Raipur plenary session this past February to automatically include former Prime Ministers and party presidents.

The third member of the Gandhi family, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, too has been named as a member of the core CWC.

Two of the seniormost members, A.K. Antony and Ambika Soni, who had desired to opt out, have also been retained as members.

More than 10 months after taking charge as the Congress chief last October, Mr. Kharge sought to find a balance between rewarding experience and implementing the promise of 50-under-50 rule or give half the positions to people under 50-years, including those from Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, minorities, and women.

In the 39-member core body of the CWC though, only three members are below 50 years of age.

Nearly all members of G-23, the ginger group that had called for internal elections and reforms in the party, have found a place in the revamped CWC. While Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and Mr. Tharoor are CWC members, other G-23 members, including Manish Tewari and Veerappa Moily, have been made permanent invitees.

Several key inclusions are former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, former Punjab Chief Minister M. Charanjit Singh Channi, former Lok Sabha member Deepa Dasmunshi, Lok Sabha member Gaurav Gogoi, and Rajya Sabha member Syed Naseer Hussain.

There are 32 Permanent Invitees including some in-charges and 13 Special Invitees, including the heads of the party’s frontal organisations such as the Mahila Congress, Youth Congress, Seva Dal, and the National Students’ Union of India.

The new look CWC, that was almost six months in the making after Mr. Kharge was authorised in February this year to nominate his team, will steer the party into the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

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Mr. Tharoor took to X (formerly Twitter) to say that it was an honour to be part of the party’s highest decision-making body. “As one who is aware of the historic role played by the CWC in guiding the party over the last 138 years, I am humbled and grateful to be part of this institution, and look forward to the opportunity to serve the party alongside my dedicated colleagues,” he posted.

Several others, including Mr. Pilot, Mr. Gogoi and Mr. Tewari, also took to X to thank the party chief.

There was also a clear focus on States going to the elections, with Tamradhwaj Sahu and Phule Devi Netam from Chhattisgarh; Digvijaya Singh, Kamleshwar Patel and Meenakshi Natarajan from Madhya Pradesh; Damodar Raja Narasimha from Telangana; and Lal Thanhawla from Mizoram made members of the core body or a permanent invitee to the CWC.

Young leaders who often articulate the party’s position in the media, including Supriya Shrinate, Pawan Khera, Kanhaiya Kumar, Gurdeep Sappal, have either been made a special invitee or a permanent invitee.

The party has also sent a strong political message by retaining or inducting leaders such as Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Alka Lamba, who have been vocal against not just the BJP but political rivals in their respective States like West Bengal, and against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is now part of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance or the INDIA bloc. 

Senior leader from Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala, a bureaucrat-turned-politician, and close aide of Mr. Gandhi, K. Raju, have been made permanent invitees.

Mr. Chennithala’s supporters, however, expressed displeasure as he has been made a permanent invitee, a position he held nearly 20 years ago, in 2004. “All those who revolted openly have been awarded but Mr. Chenithala, who has been an organisation man for more than 40 years, has been ignored,” an aide of the Kerala leader said.

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