Priyanka helps plan Sonia, Rahul Gandhi poll tours

NEW DELHI : PRIYANKAGearing to fight a tough Lok Sabha election in just three months’ time, the Congress is working on an elaborate plan to effect changes in the AICC, which could see many of its senior general secretaries being eased out of organisational responsibilities of key states so that they can be fielded as candidates in the polls.
As a corollary, some ministers will return to the party, top sources said.
They said the rejig could take place in the days after the January 17 AICC session. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is also expected to formally launch his campaign after the session, they said.
The party has already hinted at naming Gandhi as its PM candidate although the timing is not yet final. Significantly, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Tuesday attended a meeting of top Congress leaders at Rahul’s house called to draw up the tour schedule of the Congress president and vice president.
Although party sources ruled out her contesting the elections or campaigning nationwide, her presence at the meeting triggered speculation about whether she was set to play a more active role in the party ahead of the elections.Sources, however, said Priyanka joined the meeting – attended by Ahmed Patel, Ajay Maken, Janardan Dwivedi, Jairam Ramesh and Mohan Gopal – towards the end and suggested that not much should not be read into it.

“Priyanka Gandhi is a member of an important political family. May be she is not seen as participating in active politics, but she has been an active member of the Indian National Congress for long. She has been looking after election work in Amethi and Raebareli and she is still doing that. She has her own opinions on political issues and she has been discussing with party workers from time to time. It is not surprising if she has talked to senior leaders of the party on these issues. What is new in it?” Dwivedi said. Party sources said the leadership wants senior AICC general secretaries and some other office-bearers to contest elections. Many such as Digvijaya Singh and B K Hariprasad have already expressed their willingness to contest. The sources, however, added that the view of individual office-bearers about contesting would be sought.
While many key general secretaries such as Ajay Maken, C P Joshi, Gurudas Kamat and Mukul Wasnik are already members of Parliament and are expected to be renominated, it is not clear whether leaders such as Ambika Soni and Janardan Dwivedi, who are in the Rajya Sabha, will be asked to contest.
The BJP had conducted a similar experiment in 2009 when it fielded most of its leaders then in the Rajya Sabha – such as Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj and Jaswant Singh – in the Lok Sabha polls in the hope of boosting its numbers.
On the other hand, ministers such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jairam Ramesh, Sachin Pilot and Jyodiraditya Scindicould quit and return to the party to take up key organisational tasks. Sources said it was unlikely that the changes would take place before the AICC session on January 17, but pointed out that the party will have to effect the reshuffle soon. Also on the cards are changes in PCC presidents in several states, among them Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, and changes in the media faces.
Sources said some present spokespersons would be axed and four to five new faces could be inducted. The 36-member list of television panelists could also see some pruning and additions.”The reshuffle is unlikely before the AICC session because the general secretaries in charge of the states have to coordinate with the states they are in charge regarding the participation of delegates and the speakers at the session. But the party will have to make the changes soon as there is little time left,” a senior general secretary said.
Congress sources said while party chief Sonia Gandhi has rarely gone for drastic changes in the organisation in the past, the scope and expanse of the reshuffle becomes unpredictable as vice president Rahul Gandhi is keen to do a thorough restructure.

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