Congress appoints Surjewala as in charge of poll-bound MP | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Congress appoints Surjewala as in charge of poll-bound MP

Aug 18, 2023 12:18 AM IST

Congress insiders said on the condition of anonymity that these crucial changes were part of an upcoming organisational overhaul

New Delhi: The Congress put party general secretary Randeep Surjewala in charge of Madhya Pradesh on Thursday in a key reshuffle in the poll-bound state. Surjewala replaced former Delhi unit chief JP Aggarwal who was handling the party’s affairs in the state since September last year.

Randeep Surjewala
Randeep Surjewala

In another change, Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik was made the new in charge for Gujarat, replacing Raghu Sharma. The party also changed its Uttar Pradesh unit chief, replacing Brijlal Khabri with Ajay Rai, a former lawmaker who unsuccessfully fought against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and 2019 elections in Varanasi.

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Congress insiders said on the condition of anonymity that these crucial changes were part of an upcoming organisational overhaul.

Surjewala is also in charge of Karnataka, where the Congress returned to power with a thumping majority earlier this year. He was credited for maintaining balance between two party stalwarts -- chief minister Siddaramaiah and state unit chief and deputy CM DK Shivakumar.

Party insiders quoted above said that Surjewala was brought in to ensure better coordination with former CM and Madhya Pradesh party unit chief Kamal Nath. “Surjewala’s experience in Karnataka will also help him manage the two predominant power centres in the state, Nath and former CM Digvijaya Singh,” said a senior leader, requesting anonymity.

A second Congress leader pointed out that Surjewala -- considered one of the closest aides of senior leader Rahul Gandhi -- was be in a better position to take decisions and negotiate with other leaders.

In 2018, the Congress came to power in Madhya Pradesh but Nath’s government collapsed in 2020 after the exit of Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and his associates.

“The party made me in charge, now the party has removed me,” Aggawal said. He refused to comment on allegations about a lack of communication between him and Nath.

The Congress insiders quoted above said that in Uttar Pradesh, the party elevated Rai, a Bhumihar leader, keeping in mind a possible alliance with the Samajwadi Party.

“Khabri ji came from another party so there were issues related to coordination and adapting to the Congress’s style of functioning. Moreover, with Kharge ji at the helm of affairs, we felt that a Brahmin will be better choice as UP unit chief,” said a third leader, requesting anonymity. Khabri joined the Congress from the BSP in 2016.

Rai, considered a strongman in Varanasi, hit the headlines when he fought against Modi in 2014 and 2019. He lost both times.

In Gujarat’ Wasnik’s appointment comes at an important time. For two consecutive Lok Sabha polls, the Congress drew a blank in Gujarat, a state with 26 Lok Sabha seats. Wasnik’s appointment came weeks after Shaktisinh Gohil was made the state unit chief.

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