Congress revamp: Mallikarjun Kharge may go; focus on Karnataka polls?

Nikhil Bhave
Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Having set in motion the exercise of restructuring the organisation, the Congress is said to be thinking about making changes in the parliamentary wing as well. Sources said the party is weighing options of replacing its leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, who has become chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Having set in motion the exercise of restructuring the organisation, the Congress is said to be thinking about making changes in the parliamentary wing as well. Sources said the party is weighing options of replacing its leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, who has become chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The idea, sources said, is to allow him to play a key role in Karnataka, where Assembly polls are due next year. Sources said poll-bound states like Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh would have new AICC teams in place and discussions are on in this regard. General secretaries as well as PCC presidents in a few of these states would be changed. As part of the restructuring, there could be leadership changes in the Youth Congress, NSUI and Seva Dal as well. There is a proposal to induct Youth Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, a Punjab MLA, into the Amarinder Singh ministry.

While sources said discussions are on regarding Kharge’s replacement, a final call has not been taken. Moreover, a decision on his successor is “complicating” the matter. “Everything is at the discussion stage….a final call will be taken by the Congress president…the vice president is ready for it,” a senior leader confirmed.

Sources indicated AICC General Secretary Kamal Nath and Congress chief whip in Lok Sabha Jyotiraditya Scindia, both from Madhya Pradesh, could get new assignments.

A nine-term MP Kamal Nath is the seniormost member of the present Lok Sabha. Sources said one of the two will get a prominent role here and the other one in Madhya Pradesh. If Kamal Nath replaces Kharge, then Scindia could be sent to MP to helm the party. If Kamal Nath is sent to MP, then Scindia could become Deputy Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha.

Kharge, a nine-time MLA, has always nursed a grievance that he was never considered for the CM’s post in Karnataka. While Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is said to be clear in his mind that CM Siddaramaiah will lead the party into elections, discussions regarding freeing Kharge, a senior Dalit leader from the state, of the parliamentary responsibility indicate that the party wants to leave no stone unturned in its bid to retain power in the southern state.

Rahul also recently had a meeting with top Congress leaders from Chhattisgarh and Gujarat where elections are due later this year. Sources said there could be leadership changes in Chhattisgarh.

While the AICC has appointed a new team for Gujarat headed by former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, it has not yet taken a call on giving in to Shankersinh Vaghela’s demand of projecting him as the Chief Ministerial face or as in-charge of the election campaign. He is said to be upset. Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying that the party would follow tradition and not declare any person as CM candidate.

Recently in Punjab, the party had projected Amarinder Singh as CM face in a departure from tradition. The Congress recently put in place new AICC teams for election-bound states Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka.

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