Congress party units in at least five states are seeing increasing demands for a change of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs. Party insiders said changes are imminent after the results of ongoing state Assembly elections are announced on 19 May. According to party sources, states likely to see a reshuffle of PCC chiefs are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Orissa. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and his adviser Prashant Kishor are working hard to put the former’s loyalists in key positions in these states, but party sources say that they are facing some friction with party president Sonia Gandhi’s camp, members of which are reluctant to step down from their positions.
If party sources are to be believed, the working relationship between Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul is one that has “perpetual tension”.
A source in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) privy to these developments told this newspaper, “Prashant Kishor is leading the revamp for Rahul Gandhi and has made various suggestions on who should hold key positions in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. There is also a reshuffle likely in Orissa and Karnataka. There is some friction between the high command and Rahul when it comes to organisational decisions. Though she (Sonia Gandhi) has unofficially handed over all decision making powers to her son, leaders loyal to her have consistently shown resistance (to Rahul’s leadership).”
Sonia Gandhi approved the appointment of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan as the state Congress chief on Tuesday.
Rahul Gandhi is relying on the political acumen of Prashant Kishor to deliver the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due next year. Incumbent Uttar Pradesh PCC president Nirmal Khatri is a loyalist who grew in the Congress party with a clean image, but is unlikely to keep his position. “Nirmal Khatri’s competencies are not enough to make us a major player in the next elections. We are looking for new faces and Kishor is personally looking into it,” the source said.
UP is a state which is dominated by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and the BJP with Prime Minister Narendra Modi being an MP from Varanasi.
The maximum activity is being seen in Madhya Pradesh, a state where the party lost power in 2003 and has not returned yet. The BJP-ruled state will go to the polls in 2018. Party general secretary and former Union minister Kamal Nath is being seen as the front-runner for the post of the state’s new PCC chief. The 70-year-old Nath is the party’s longest serving MP and was passed over when the party was selecting its leader in the Lok Sabha after the 2014 general elections.
Incumbent PCC chief Arun Yadav had a long meeting with Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday and state Congress sources said that “a major reshuffle is on the cards in Madhya Pradesh”.
“A large section in the party cadre has apparently demanded Jyotiraditya Scindia to be named as the PCC chief but it seems unlikely that he will leave a Parliament berth and his rising stature in AICC to become a state leader. Another faction in the state unit is strongly lobbying for the appointment of Kamal Nath as the state chief. Kamal Nath is being seen as the main contender for the post at the moment,” the AICC source said. “Some are demanding the appointment of Satyavrat Chaturvedi, but the stakes are too high for such experiments,” he said.
Party sources informed this newspaper that “Bihar PCC president Ashok Chaudhary is also likely to face the axe. He has not revived the party’s fortune despite holding a ministerial position in the Nitish Kumar government.” Chaudhary’s dependence on the RJD-JDU combine is apparently what has turned out to be his undoing.
The party wants to give a strong fight in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the “high command wants a person who can run the state unit as an independent entity”, party insiders said.
Party workers in Karnataka are also demanding a change of the PCC chief. Incumbent chief and Karnataka Home Minister G. Parameshwara’s five-year tenure has come to an end. It has been extended by five months. The BJP recently announced its state chief—B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is from the Lingayat community. The Congress party’s decision is likely to be influenced by this. Party workers are demanding a leader from the Lingayat community and S.R. Patil’s and M.B. Patil’s names are doing the rounds. Other contenders include the party’s national spokesperson Dinesh Gundu Rao, a Brahmin and Krishna Byregowda, a Vokkaliga.
D.K. Shivakumar, from the Vokkaliga community, who is also close to veteran leader S.M. Krishna and Sonia Gandhi, recently said he was not vying for the post.