Mallikarjun Kharge plays delicate balancing act in CWC rejig before 2024 polls
The reshuffle of the CWC on Sunday tried to maintain a delicate balance between different pressure groups and aspirations of important leaders.
The reshuffle of the Congress working committee (CWC) on Sunday tried to maintain a delicate balance between different pressure groups and aspirations of important leaders ahead of the important polling season that culminates in the 2024 general elections.
Read here: Congress expands CWC, adds ex-‘G23’ rebels
The first major organisational reshuffle under party chief Mallikarjun Kharge elevated a bunch of young and promising leaders, something that former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has frequently advocated, but also gave space to nearly all participants of the now-defunct G23 group, from Anand Sharma to Mukul Wasnik.
The party tried to accommodate leaders who have been otherwise not rewarded with official positions and also kept in mind regional sensitivities and Gandhi family loyalists.
While the G23, or the 23 rebels, rocked the Congress organisation in August 2020 by demanding wholesale changes through a letter, the party had been trying to win over the majority of them. If the G23 leaders’ support for Kharge in the Congress presidential election was a sign of a thaw, the new working committee accommodated at least five top leaders of the erstwhile rebel camp.
Senior leader Sharma, who was not renominated to the Rajya Sabha, has been retained in the CWC. Manish Tewari, another former G23 leader who perhaps deserves a better role in the Lok Sabha, have been included in the all-important body. Wasnik, who attended one meeting of the G23, or former Karnataka chief minister M Veerappa Moily, who had been sidelined for a while, have found places in the extended CWC. Tharoor, another G23 leader, has been nominated to the top body.
“These appointments signal that Kharge wants to forget the past and make a new beginning,” an aide of the Congress president said, declining to be named.
Congress functionaries added that Tharoor’s entry in the CWC forced another top leader from Kerala, Ramesh Chennithala, to be included as a permanent invitee. “Chennithala, who was earlier removed as the leader of the opposition in the Kerala assembly, is not entirely happy with the latest rejig in CWC,” a leader close to Chennithala said on condition of anonymity.
Similarly, former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot has been made a member of the CWC. The top body required 50% of the seats to go to leaders under the age of 50; Pilot is 45 years old. While this is part of a peace plan in poll-bound Rajasthan, the loyalists of chief minister Ashok Gehlot got another blow as Raghu Sharma, considered close to the Rajasthan’s ruling dispensation, has been dropped from the committee.
The communication department of the Congress gained from the latest reshuffle as two prominent members, Pawan Khera and Supriya Srinate, were included in the CWC. The reward comes amid renewed efforts to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in public outreach, an area where the Congress has been seen weaker.
Old loyalists, too, have been accommodated. AK Antony, who announced retirement and left for Kerala, remains a CWC member. Digvijaya Singh, P Chidambaram, BK Hariprasad and Pratibha Singh, senior leaders considered close to the Gandhi family, have also been included.
“The key focus, however, remained on infusing younger faces and creating a new structure of leadership in the organization. Leaders such as Gaurav Gogoi, Pilot, Kanhaiya Kumar, Manickam Tagore, Alka Lamba represent a new group of leaders who will now hold important positions in the organization,” a party functionary said, seeking anonymity.
“While Kharge had his way of promoting is trusted loyalists such as Gurdip Sappal or Sayed Nassir Hussain (both play key roles in Kharge’s office), Rahul Gandhi’s vision for a more inclusive and young face of the CWC has been implemented,” another leader said, wishing to remain unnamed.
The Congress had promised to bring 50% quota for young people. Gogoi, Kanhaiya Kumar, Sappal, Lamba, Pilot are now in CWC as a part of that promise, the leader said. “Similarly, inclusion of leader such as Deepa Dasmunshi, Kumari Selja, Rajni Patilm Pratibha Singh helped the party fill up the quota for women,” he said. “K Raju (SC), BK HarPrasad (OBC), Hussain or Tariq Hameed Karra has been brought in as part of the other sub quotas.”
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