Reshuffling the Pack

Mallikarjun Kharge, the newly elected Congress president, has constituted a Steering Committee to help him administer the party. As per tradition and the Congress Constitution, members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and the party office bearers tendered their resignation to the new party chief. However, he has apparently asked the office bearers to continue for now. The CWC has been replaced by the Steering Committee with the hope that a new CWC would be “elected” once the AICC plenary is held. So far, no dates have been scheduled for this. The media has focused on the fact that Shashi Tharoor is not part of the steering committee, despite Kharge telling his opponent that they would work together. However, other notable absentees include veterans like Sushil Kumar Shinde, Shivraj Patil, Veerappa Moily, Dr Karan Singh, Mohsina Kidwai, Pallam Raju, Begum Noor Bano, Harikesh Bahadur, Hanumanth Rao and Bhupinder Hooda. It would be interesting to see the new list of general secretaries and state presidents that Kharge puts in place, for there are rumours within the Congress that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would be given a more prominent role, which would bring her out from Uttar Pradesh. And of course, what the new president’s plans are for the party’s yatri-cum-mascot.

The Rajasthan Question

The Rajasthan imbroglio still looms large on the new Congress President’s in-tray. Will he keep Ashok Gehlot on and maintain status quo? That would be the easy way out, but it would also seem as if Gehlot got away with his little rebellion. If Kharge installs Sachin Pilot (as has apparently been promised to Pilot by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) then Gehlot will not take this lying down. He may try to destabilise the government, which will not be good optics with just a year to go for the state polls. The third option is to take the view of the MLAs—one by one and not in a group or by a voice vote, as was done in Punjab. Or else go in for a third name, a consensus candidate that works for both camps. And while the focus is on the Congress camp in Rajasthan, the BJP too hasn’t got its act worked out. Will it go with the still popular Vasundhara Raje as its CM face or will the elections be fought on the PM’s name and the chief minister declared post the polls (if the BJP wins)? The party has had several meetings on the score but no decision has been taken as yet.

Problem of Plenty

With Mallikarjun Kharge’s elevation, the Congress now has a problem of plenty. At the top hierarchy there are Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, besides Kharge himself. As the party president Kharge’s name should be on the top of any committee that he is a part of. But that would put him above the Gandhis. And so an ingenious way has been worked out as one saw in the Steering Committee list that was released recently which had Kharge’s name on the top, and then the list began with Sonia Gandhi as Number One. For those on the lookout there’s a subliminal message there somewhere.