Ghulam Nabi Azad has lost the post of general secretary in the Indian National Congress expectedly after the veteran was identified as a dissenter, thanks to the letter he and 22 of his colleagues had written to the leadership, calling for internal democracy in the party. Sonia Gandhi has gone with the advice of her son Rahul, it seems from the shape of the rejig. Azad remains in the Congress Working Committee (CWC), though.
The INC leadership has removed Motilal Vora, Ambika Soni and Mallikarjun Kharge as general secretaries of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in last evening’s shuffle too.
P Chidambaram, Tariq Anwar, Randeep Surjewala, and Jitendra Singh are now regular members of the CWC.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, a Rahul Gandhi loyalist, is among the biggest gainers of the shuffle. He is now a general secretary given the charge of Karnataka. He is also a member of the special committee to oversee organisational changes. He remains chief spokesperson too.
Another gainer is KC Venugopal, a member of most committees. Another Rahul loyalist Jitendra Singh is now in charge of Assam.
Tariq Anwar, who quit the INC along with Sharad Pawar and PA Sangma over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin but returned before the Lok Sabha election last year, is a new general secretary too. He is in charge of Kerala where elections are due next year.
A month after a group of 23 politicians of the party wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi calling for elections for all the ranks in the INC from the local to the central level, and a “full-time, visible leadership”, keeping the Nehru-Gandhi family always as a part of collective decision-making, they have paid the price.
It is only Mukul Wasnik, among the letter’s signatories, who is now a general secretary. He is in charge of Madhya Pradesh. Wasnik is among the six leaders who are to “assist the Congress president in organisational and operational matters as expressed by her in the CWC meeting on 24 August”.
The others in this special committee are AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjwala. This committee is the only sign of any impact of the dissent letter, which split the party down the middle and left the letter writers isolated in the party.
The signatories are reportedly unhappy with what they believe are “cosmetic changes” in the party.
Sonia Gandhi has removed Jitin Prasada, another signatory to the letter, as a representative from Uttar Pradesh in charge of West Bengal. Elections are due in West Bengal next year.
Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra remains the general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh.
While asking for internal democracy in a party may appear a legitimate demand to outsiders, in the INC things don’t work that way. Rahul Gandhi saw the letter as a veiled attack on his family, especially on him, since he had quit as president last year over the INC’s election defeat.
Over the past few months, the INC has been a house divided. Veterans rallied one another against what is seen as Rahul Gandhi’s core group that is rooting for his return to the top job.
It was the coterie of Rahul that was the most vociferous in the attack on Azad and other signatories to the letter. They referred to the signatories as “traitors” at the 24 August meeting of the CWC, where both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were present.
The meeting ended with the INC declaring that Sonia Gandhi would remain interim chief until an AICC session in the next six months. The party head decided that the INC would ‘examine the grievances’ of the letter writers. The special committee announced today is supposedly meant to address that promise.