With an eye on general elections, the Congress on Sunday announced a major revamp of the party in which two second-rung leaders, the relatively young Ajay Maken and CP Joshi, were brought back to the organisation after they dramatically resigned from the Union Cabinet preferring political work to governance issues.
Maken, known to be a good administrator, has been given charge of a newly-created communication, publicity and publication department. Significantly, the media cell of the AICC till now headed by Janardan Dwivedi has been merged with it. Joshi as general secretary will be in charge of Assam, Bihar, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Maken will be assisted by Congress MP from Mumbai, Priya Dutt.
Since the job given to Joshi, unlike Maken’s, is not high-profile enough for him to have left the twin charge of Roadways and Railways for party work, his return to the AICC headquarters is being seen as bearing the imprint of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The elevation of Madhusudan Mistry as incharge of Uttar Pradesh too seems to be his idea.
A low-profile leader from Gujarat, Mistry has been steadily rising in the party despite making no headway in his own state. Mistry cemented his position after some of the credit for the Congress victory in Karnataka rubbed off on him. Many in the party believe Mistry has been given the charge of a key state like UP due to his familiarity with the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo who are going to lead the BJP campaign in the Hindi heartland state. Nonetheless, it’s a stunning appointment as he replaces a senior true-blue Congress leader Digvijay Singh. Mistry is also seen to be close to Rahul. The other significant appointment in this Congress reshuffle is that of Ambika Soni. Among other portfolios, Soni has reclaimed her position in Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s office. Once known and feared for her influence over Sonia, Soni is back as general secretary in charge of CPO.
Ahmed Patel continues to be the Congress president’s political secretary. Ambika also has got the responsibility of monitoring poll-bound J&K, Himachal and Uttarakhand. While Soni had given up her I&B Ministry portfolio a few months ago favouring party work over government, another senior Congress general secretary of Sanjay Gandhi-vintage, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has given up his party duties, preferring to be just the Union Health Minister.
An old party hand, Azad has relinquished the rather difficult charge of Andhra Pradesh (with the messed up Telangana issue) in favour of another veteran, Digvijay Singh, who will also have the charge of Karnataka and Goa. Azad’s other charge, Tamil Nadu, has been given to general secretary Mukul Wasnik, who also made his way back to party from government a few months ago when he gave up the Social Justice and Empowerment portfolio. He will look after Kerala affairs for the Congress.
In this reshuffle, expected to be followed by a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday, portfolio allocation between the old guard and the new has not been disturbed. The ageing Motilal Vora continues to be the treasurer and Rahul will stay in-charge of the frontal organisations.
But another loyalist, Oscar Fernandes, has been relegated to the background as special invitee to the Congress Working Committee. The charge of Central Election Committee has been taken away from him and given to Mistry. Those who have been elevated as general secretaries, in charge of various states of the west and the northeast, include Mohan Prakash, Shakeel Ahmed, Luizinho Faleiro.
Just like Mistry, many of the 42 general secretaries appointed on Sunday are close to Rahul Gandhi.