NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Gearing up for the coming polls in five states—Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Mizoram—Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has appointed panels to screen party candidates.
Focusing on Maharashtra, which sends the second highest number of members 48 to the Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh’s 80, Rahul named Karnataka veteran Mallikarjuna Kharge as the new in charge for the western state. Sonal Patel, Ashish Dua and Sampath Kumar have been appointed as AICC secretaries to assist Kharge who replaced Mohan Prakash.
Among the poll-bound states, where assembly elections are scheduled later this year, veteran Kumari Selja would head the screening panel for Rajasthan, Madhusudan Mistry for Madhya Pradesh, Bhubaneshwar Kalita for Chhattisgarh, where the Congress is locked in a direct fight with the BJP. In Odisha, the job of screening party candidates has gone to VD Satheeshan and to Luizinho Faleiro in Mizoram.
Further to rebuild the organisation ahead of the 2019 national polls, the Congress chief also appointed Mahendra Joshi and JD Seelam as AICC Secretary and SK Sharma as Joint Secretary attached to Ashok Gehlot who was recently named AICC in charge of Organisation. Joshi served as Sewa Dal chief for long years and was recently replaced by Lalji Desai.
Also, Christopher Tilak and CD Meyappan were named as Secretaries to Andhra Pradesh in charge Oommen Chandy. While Chandy is former Kerala chief minister, both Tilak and Meyappan are from Tamil Nadu.
Kharge has his task cut out—to improve the electoral performance of the party which was relegated to the fourth position in Maharashtra in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
In the 2014 State Assembly polls also, the party won only 42 seats in the 288-member House, while the BJP won 122 seats, Shiv Sena won 63 and the Nationalist Congress Party bagged 41 seats.