Congress chief Kharge gets challenger Tharoor a key role
By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
New Delhi: The Congress Party president Mapanna Mallikarjun Kharge has constituted a drafting committee and various subgroups for the 85th plenary session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). The party’s prestigious three-day plenary session is fast approaching and in order to keep senior leaders happy as well as youth, Kharge did a balancing act to accommodate as many as possible in the committees for the three-day session which is going to be held in Raipur in Chattisgarh from February 24.
Interestingly, the Congress president accommodated Shashi Tharoor in the subgroups as he was made convenor of the sub-committee on Foreign Affairs. It may be recalled that Tharoor not only contested against Kharge but he had also accused the party leadership of taking sides in the recent party presidential election. Sources said that Tharoor was made convenor to send a signal to party workers across the country that both the Nehru-Gandhi family and the party president have taken steps to accommodate the high-profile dissenter.
Apart from Tharoor, there were several seniors who were accommodated and asked to lead the subgroups. Veerappa Moily, was another dissident leader and member of the now-disbanded G-23, to be made in charge of the crucial political affairs committee. Party veteran and close to the Gandhi family, Ambika Soni is also brought back from semi-retirement and made in charge of the subgroup of the party constitution amendment committee. The underlying message of Ambika being assigned a new role is that she would continue to play a major part in party affairs.
Party general secretary and in-charge of communications in the AICC, Jairam Ramesh has been made the chairman of the drafting committee, a role usually reserved in the past for veterans like Pranab Mukherjee. Party men say that Jairam Ramesh is playing a critical role in the party’s revival process for the past few months. During Rahul Gandhi’s recent five-month-long Bharat Jodo Yatra, Ramesh not only coordinated the entire yatra but also played a strategic role in making the yatra a successful event.
The drafting committee for the plenary session will hold its first meeting on February 14, 2023, to chalk out a plan for the various resolutions as well as the brainstorming meetings that will take place during the get-together. Jairam Ramesh will preside over the meeting tomorrow to set in motion processes to prepare for its big event. The congregation is significant as the key political and economic resolutions, which would be like a mini-manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, would be passed during the three-day mega conclave.
Senior leaders say that both Rahul Gandhi and Kharge have been articulating the party’s concerns over the prevailing political situation in the country as well as on the policies of the government. Hence, the political and economic resolutions are likely to reflect the positions of both the former and the incumbent Congress chiefs who have been alleging the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of playing divisive politics and have slammed the Centre for the growing economic disparities, social disharmony, centralisation of politics and disregarding the constitutional institutions.
Kharge also named former union minister M Veerappa Moily and former finance minister P Chidambaram as heads of the subgroups on political and economic resolutions. According to party insiders, the two veterans are holding consultations with other group members over the points to be included in the political and economic resolution drafts. The drafting committee is important as it proposes various resolutions at the plenary session.
On the other hand, an attempt to promote younger leaders is clearly visible. While Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are not members of any committee, another notable omission is Digvijay Singh. For the committee on economic affairs, the convenor would be Gourav Vallabh. Others include Sachin pilot, Milind Deora, K Muraleedharan, Bharat Singh Solanki, Vijay Inder Singla, Nitin Raut, Pranithi Shinde, Salman Anees and others.
The sub-group on agriculture is headed by former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while the group on social justice and empowerment is led by Mukul Wasnik with veterans like Meira Kumar and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa being the members. The group on youth affairs is helmed by Amarinder Singh Raja Brar and young leaders like B V Srinivas, Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani are the members, along with others.