Cong overhaul: After Goa and Karnataka, Digvijaya relieved of charge over Telangana

New Delhi (Hindustan Times): The Congress on Tuesday divested party general secretary Digvijaya Singh of his responsibilities in Telangana as part of a new strategy to have just one senior functionary in charge over each state.

Digvijaya, who was earlier relieved of his charge over Goa and poll-bound Karnataka, now holds the fort only in Andhra Pradesh. Former Rajya Sabha MP and party secretary RC Khuntia will take over his responsibilities in Telangana.

Khuntia, a backward class leader from Odisha, had been assisting Digvijaya in Telangana until now. He has served in the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), a frontal organisation of India’s grand old party, for a long time. Satish Jarkiholi, a recently appointed party secretary who reportedly began hobnobbing with the Janata Dal (Secular) after being dropped from the Karnataka cabinet, will assist Khuntia in his functions.

The other organisational changes effected by Congress president Sonia Gandhi are the creation of two new departments in the party structure. While Thiruvananthapuram MP and former Union minister Shashi Tharoor will head the All India Professionals Congress (AIPC), Arbind Singh will chair the All India Unorganised Workers Congress with Irfan Alam as the vice-chairman.

Arbind, a social entrepreneur, has been associated with the National Association of Street Vendors of India – an organisation working for the upliftment of street vendors across the country. Alam, a Harvard graduate from Bihar, has worked to protect the interests of rickshaw pullers through his NGO – Samman Foundation. Ahead of the 2015 Bihar assembly elections, the state Congress had appointed him as the media advisor and planner of the party’s poll campaign. At one time, Alam even earned the praise of former US president Barack Obama for his work.

The Tharoor-headed AIPC hopes to contribute to the advancement of progressive politics in India by letting citizens network with like-minded peers, engage with political leaders and influencers, and contribute to election campaigns as well as policy formulation activities.

Digvijaya had come under fire for his lacklustre handling of the post-election developments in Goa, where the Congress failed to form the government despite emerging as the single-largest party in the state assembly. After the BJP cobbled together a coalition, chief minister Manohar Parrikar had even offered “special thanks” to Digvijaya for helping the saffron party by “doing absolutely nothing”.

A rebellion had been brewing even in Karnataka’s ruling Congress government. Many state leaders complained to the Congress high command about the party veteran’s style of functioning, and demanded his removal from the post.

The fresh changes are part of a new strategy aimed at adapting to the changing times. It lays down a strict condition that no Congress functionary will be allowed to hold charge over multiple states, even if the person concerned is a general secretary. Moreover, the leaders in charge will be issued a strict directive to focus exclusively on their territories and take steps to strengthen the party’s presence there.

With this basic change in its organisational restructuring process, the party has shunned its decades-old practice of indiscriminately handing charge over multiple states to general secretaries or any other leader of a similar stature. It was devised in view of feedback received by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi that entrusting a single leader with responsibilities in manifold states leaves him/her with little time to do justice to either of them. Many claimed this was the reason behind the Congress losing various electoral battles, and several leaders straying into greener political pastures.

The Congress used to hold sway over 13 states before its worst-ever electoral drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Today, with just six state governments to its credit, the party can no longer claim to be a dominant political force in the country.

Another organisational strategy unveiled by the Congress constitutes preparing a team for the future by appointing young leaders as secretaries who can assist senior members in managing party affairs in various states. This way, the old guards will not feel ignored either.


Congress begins exercise to field candidate in Panaji seat

Panaji, Jul 29 (PTI) The Congress and other parties have begun the exercise to field a common candidate against Manohar Parrikar in the upcoming Panaji by-election scheduled on August 23.

The Congress which has decided to contest the by-election in Panaji along with Valpoi held a series of meetings today in capital city chaired by Goa Pradesh Congress committee president Shantaram Naik to shortlist the candidates.

The party had almost finalised the candidature of former minister Atanasio Monserratte to contest from Panaji, but he left the party to join Goa Forward Party, said party sources.

Congress sources confirmed that after the exit of Monserratte, the party has zeroed in on ex-mayor of Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP) Ashok Naik.

After the meeting, Shantaram Naik told PTI that “the party will field its own candidates in both the constituencies, and the parties which are willing to defeat BJP should join the hands with us.”

“The talks are yet to begin with any of the party but congress will welcome the support,” he said.

Naik said names of both the candidates would be announced on Monday by the Congress.

The name of Ashok Naik has been considered as he would be acceptable to majority of parties which are not with the BJP-led government, said party sources.

“Ashok Naik has been at the helm of affairs at the CCP between 2001-2006 and is known for his simplicity. There are various leaders from other parties who are willing to support him,” a senior Congress leader said, refusing to be quoted.

He said that the exercise to have a dialogue with parties like the Goa Suraksha Manch and the Aam Aadmi Party has already begun.

When contacted, Ashok Naik said “Congress had approached me with the offer to contest in Panaji by-election. I met their leaders. I have told them that I will consult my supporters and well wishers and get back on Monday.”

He claimed that there are several BJP workers too, who are supporting him.

When contacted, GSM President Anand Shirodkar said the party is yet to take a stand on whether to support consensus candidate or not.

“It will depend entirely on the situation,” he said.


BJP declares Parrikar, Rane as Panjim, Valpoi candidates

PANJIM: Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Central Election Committee has declared the party candidates in Panjim and Valpoi Assembly constituencies for the August 23 by-polls.

The candidates, as expected, are Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in Panjim, and Health Minister Vishwajit Rane in Valpoi.

BJP is the first party to declare their candidates. Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Goa Suraksha Manch and others are yet to decide on their choices.

Congress is likely to field former Panjim Mayor Ashok Naik in Panjim, while Ravi Naik’s son Roy is likely to be the candidate in Valpoi.

Sources informed that in Panjim constituency AAP and GSM are likely to support Ashok Naik.