In Congress shake-up after letter bomb, Ghulam Nabi Azad loses post

New Delhi: Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, the most prominent of the “dissent” letter writers seen to have questioned the leadership of the Gandhis, has been dropped as general secretary in a shake-up by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

“The party whole-heartedly appreciates the contributions of outgoing General Secretaries Ghulam Nabi Azad, Motial Vora, Ambika Soni, Mallikarjun Kharge and Luizinho Faleiro,” said a letter signed off by Sonia Gandhi.

Ghulam Nabi Azad remains a part of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making panel. Jitin Prasada, another member of the ginger group, is a permanent invitee.

Jitin Prasada has been named a state in-charge, but he has been shifted from Uttar Pradesh to Bengal, where elections are due next year. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is the general secretary in-charge of UP.

The reshuffle comes a month after a group of 23 party leaders, in a stunning act of revolt, wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi calling for an overhaul of the party, internal elections and a “full-time, visible leadership”. The letter also suggested that the Gandhi family would always be a part of collective decision-making.

In a token move, another leader who was among the 23 letter-writers, Mukul Wasnik, has been made a general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh.

Mukul Wasnik has also been named among the six leaders who are to “assist the Congress president in organizational and operational matters as expressed by her in the CWC meeting on August 24”. The others are AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjwala.

This special 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.

Randeep Singh Surjewala is among the biggest gainers of the shuffle. He has been named general secretary in charge of Karnataka, he is in the special committee and continues as chief spokesperson.

The dissent letter was seen to be a veiled attack on the Gandhis, especially Rahul Gandhi, who quit as president last year over the Congress’s election defeat. Over the past few months, the Congress has been sharply divided with the veterans ranged against what is known to be Rahul Gandhi’s core group, which is rooting for his return to the top job.

Mr Azad and other signatories to the letter were attacked as “traitors” at the August 24 meeting of the CWC, in which both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were present.

The meeting ended with the Congress declaring that Sonia Gandhi would remain interim chief until an All India Congress Committee (AICC) session in the next six months. It was reportedly also decided that the party would examine the grievances of the letter writers. The special committee announced today is meant to address that promise.

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