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Rajasthan Congress chief may be replaced

Shahid K Abbas in New Delhi | January 15, 2003 22:38 IST

After Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Congress high command is believed to be contemplating replacing its Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Girija Vyas.

With assembly polls due in November 2003 and Lok Sabha elections in 2004, the move is part of a larger plan to reinvigorate the party's organisational structure and also curb dissidence, particularly in states where the party is in power.

It is believed that the influential Jat-community wants Vyas, a Brahmin, replaced.

Though the Jats already have the lions share of ministries in the state cabinet, headed by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a non-Jat OBC, they have been demanding the top post in exchange for their continued support to the Congress.

Alternatively, sources in the Congress told, the Jat lobby would like to see its man as RPCC chief and an assurance that the next chief minister, in case the Congress wins the November assembly poll, would be a Jat.

Some changes seem imminent. Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy indicated as much on Wednesday when, responding to a question, he said, "The Congress president would shortly announce some changes in Rajasthan."

However, he refused to elaborate.

Sources in the Congress indicated that former Union minister Seesh Ram Ola, Paras Ram Maderna and Colonel Sona Ram Choudhary are in the reckoning for the RPCC president's post.

They also indicated that as a quid pro quo some more Brahmin leaders would be accommodated in the state cabinet as the party is loath to precipitate fresh dissidence before the assembly elections.

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had put at rest speculation that Congress president was considering replacing him as part of a decision to sack non-performing Congress chief ministers.

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