If you speak to leaders of the Congress, they say that the Congress is not a party in a hurry and that is why it has survived 127 years. Perhaps, this is also the reason why it took them about two years to revamp the organisation. While the organisational revamp has lowered the average age within the Congress, the latest Cabinet reshuffle has ensured that the average age goes up. Congress insiders say that all political equations had to be kept in mind while going ahead with both the changes. The result of these permutations and combinations has thrown up interesting results.
One of the key gainers in the revamp has been Ajay Maken, the MP from Delhi. Maken resigned from the Union Cabinet to be accommodated in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and was also made the General Secretary of the Congress, heading its Communications and Publicity wing. This positioning has had dual benefits for the Congress. Maken is 18 years younger than his predecessor Janardhan Dwivedi, is tech savvy and has an eye on social media. He is active on several social media platforms and also understands the importance of proper representation on these platforms, while Dwivedi did not even have a computer in his room.
The other and most important factor is that Delhi will hold the Assembly polls in November. While Maken has chief ministerial ambitions, the Congress realises that their best bet to win the Delhi Assembly elections is the current three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The shifting of Maken to a larger, national responsibility will ensure that he leaves the affairs of Delhi to Dikshit. This move has made all the stakeholders happy at their respective places. A loose Ajay Maken in Delhi would have certainly dented the prospects of the Congress. In a state going to polls, one can never be too cautious.
The case of Dr CP Joshi, an MP from Rajasthan, is similar. He resigned from the Union cabinet where he held the important portfolios of Road and Railways. Like Maken, Joshi was also included in the prestigious CWC and made General Secretary in charge of the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. Nobody is a stranger to the ambitions of Joshi for the post of chief minister of Rajasthan. In the last Assembly elections, Joshi had lost his seat by one vote which ensured that Ashok Gehlot became the Chief Minister in Rajasthan. Ever since, Joshi has taken it upon himself to cause trouble for the Congress government in Rajasthan. He has taken MLAs from Rajasthan to meet the Congress leadership demanding a change of guard. However, he never managed to hit the bullâ€™s eye. As Rajasthan also goes to polls this November, Joshiâ€™s elevation will keep him occupied with the national responsibilities given to him.
Digvijaya Singh has taken the biggest perception hit. He remains in the CWC and continues to be General Secretary, but his states have been changed. Digvijaya was the face of the Congress in the UP Assembly elections, but UP has been taken away from him. He gets the troubled state of Andhra Pradesh and also Karnataka and Goa. After the Congress debacle in the March 2012Â UP Assembly elections, he had sent in his resignation to the Congress President but was asked to continue. But in the last one year, the bitter battle within the UP Congress did not help Digvijayaâ€™s cause. Secondly, the impression that Digvijaya has Rahul Gandhiâ€™s ear did him in. Though he still enjoys good states, he has lost the perception battle of being incharge of the state from where both the Congress President and the Vice President hail. There was also talk of Digvijaya heading the media cell or even becoming the Advisor to Rahul Gandhi, but all that was misplaced. It was just gas emanating out of a particular caste group within the Congress. Presently the charge of UP has gone to Madhusudan Mistry, a backward caste leader from Gujarat. Mistry is a backroom manager. His current claim to fame is the victory of Congress in Karnataka where he was at the helm. As we all know Karnataka and UP are two different games.
Ambika Soni, in this revamp can be called the comeback queen. She was out in the wilderness after being dropped from the cabinet in the October 2012 reshuffle. Presently she has been appointed as the General Secretary of the Congress with the charge of the states like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. The other very important task given to her is managing the office of the Congress President. Ambika has worked with the Congress President earlier,Â but the appointmentÂ as managing the Congress Presidentâ€™s Office (CPO) takes her a few notches up in the hierarchy of the Congress.
Gurudas Kamat, a veteran Congress leader and MP from Mumbai, has been rehabilitated in the Congress structure. He has been inducted in the CWC and has been made the General Secretary in charge of the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Kamat had resigned from the Council of ministers in a huff when he was not promoted to full cabinet rank in the July 2011 cabinet reshuffle. There was also talk of Kamat resigning from the party but he was advised to wait for the opportune moment. As it usually happens in Congress he was rewarded for the wait. The other gainer in this revamp is Shakeel Ahmed who has been made the General Secretary with the states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
Interestingly, the Congress leaders who were said to be close to Rahul have been mostly ignored. Meenakshi Natarajan, a Rahul protÃ©gÃ©, was dropped from the post of Secretary AICC. Ashok Tanwar and Harish Chaudhary did not see their elevation happening in the organisation. They continue to remain Secretaries in AICC. Jairam Ramesh who is mostly critical of the UPA government, where he is a Cabinet Minister, did not get anything in the Congress organisation. He did not get any specific assignment in the party, neither did he manage to make it to the CWC. The other General Secretaries who were dropped include Mohsina Kidwai, Vilas Muttemwar, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ch. Birendra Singh.
The Cabinet reshuffle has seen electoral considerations play themselves out. The 86-year-old Jat leader from Rajasthan, Sis Ram Ola, was inducted, so was Girija Vyas, MP from Chittorgarh. Rajasthan gained the maximum as it is an election going state. This is followed by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where the Congress wants to be seen doing things for these respective states.
This was the last change which the Congress has done both in the government and the party before the 2014 elections. It has tried to pension off some people while keeping the flock intact. It feels the cocktail of youth and experience will perhaps hold them in good stead in the several state elections to come and also in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.