Congress “Dissenters” Not On UP Poll Teams, Salman Khurshid Gets Key Job

Congress leaders such as Jitin Prasad and Raj Babbar, who were signatories to a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi for a re-haul of the organisation, have failed to find a place in the new committees.
Salman Khurshid

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid will head a team that will draw up the Congress manifesto ahead of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh — due two years later. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, put in charge of the party in eastern Uttar Pradesh, has already started setting up teams, sources in the party said.

Congress leaders such as Jitin Prasad and Raj Babbar, who were signatories to a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi for a re-haul of the organisation, have failed to find a place in the new committees. Those who denounced the letter writers in the “Group of 23” like Nirmal Khatri and Naseeb Pathan have found places in the panels announced on Sunday evening.

Last year, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Ms Gandhi Vadra was given charge of delivering Uttar Pradesh to the Congress in the next state elections. Her brother Rahul Gandhi, who was the chief of the party at the time, had also given charge of western Uttar Pradesh to his closest aide, Jyyotiraditya Scindia, who has since joined the BJP.

Ms Gandhi Vadra has her task cut out. The excitement over her appointment had not translated to votes in the Lok Sabha election. The Congress has logged its worst performance ever in the state, where its space had shrunk to two seats. Though Sonia Gandhi retained Rae Bareli, Rahul Gandhi had lost the family turf Amethi to the BJP’s Smriti Irani.

It has now fallen on Mr Khurshid — a Gandhi family loyalist — to help improve the party’s fortunes in the state in framing a vision for the future .The former minister, who was born in Aligarh, represented Farrukhabad in central Uttar Pradesh in parliament.

A Gandhi family loyalist, Mr Khurshid has been upset after the recent dissent by a ginger group of 23 leaders that had stirred up the Congress. Days later, he firmly backed the Gandhis, saying it was time for a consensus, not elections.

“I have said very clearly that the Gandhis are leaders of the Congress. Nobody can deny this. Even the opposition cannot deny this… I don’t worry about whether or not we have a president. We have a leader (in Rahul Gandhi) and that is comforting for me,” the former Union minister had told PTI in an interview.

Among those in the new teams for Uttar Pradesh are, former state unit chief Nirmal Khatri in the Training and Cadre Development Committee, while Naseeb Pathan is part of the Programme Implementation Committee. Both had denounced the letter-writers and demanded action against them.

While Salman Khurshid, PL Punia, Aradhana Misra, Supriya Shrinate, Vivek Bansal and Amitabh Dubey are in the Manifesto Committee, those in the Outreach Committee include Pramod Tiwari, Pradip Jain, Gajraj Singh, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Imran Masood and Bal Kumar Patel.

After the Congress letter — where senior leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor and Anand Sharma had pushed for change in leadership — all of them got left out from a list of big promotions handed out by the party’s interim chief Sonia Gandhi.

Gaurav Gogoi and Ravneet Singh Bittu were appointed deputy leader and whip in the Lok Sabha. Senior leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh, who was not among the dissenters either, was appointed Chief Whip of the Congress.

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