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Congress revamp: Gandhi's eyes on UP, Bengal, Kerala

Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi | June 30, 2004 18:00 IST
Last Updated: June 30, 2004 18:01 IST

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi returned to Delhi on Wednesday evening after spending a leisurely couple of days in the salubrious surroundings of Uttaranchal, party sources said.

Accompanied by her mother Paola Maino, the Congress chief enjoyed spectacular views of snow-capped peaks and took in the fresh air in Almora and Kumaon where her late husband Rajiv Gandhi's aide Suman Dubey owns a cottage. Her aide V George was the fourth person in the entourage.

Besides taking a break, pressing matters concerning the party and the Congress-led central government were also on her agenda.

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Gandhi is expected to revamp the All India Congress Committee and several state units keeping the performance of the party in the recent Lok Sabha elections in mind. The last few days had been spent reviewing inputs from the various state units, party leaders and her aides on this issue. Veterans have already been given hints that they should be prepared to make way for young blood.

Gandhi chose to retreat to the cooler climes of the hills to finalise the details, sources told

Besides the revamp of her organisation, she also spent some time mulling over the Congress strategy in the states, especially Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala, and the management of the ruling United Progressive Alliance of which she is the chairperson.

The party's main thrust would be in Uttar Pradesh where it is determined to regain lost ground. In the 2004 LS elections, the Congress got just 10 parliamentary seats out of the total 80.

Gandhi's son Rahul, who won from the Amethi parliamentary constituency, is being groomed to take charge of the state. He is expected to work from his new office-cum-residence at 12 Tughlak Crescent, which his sister Priyanka is getting renovated, the sources added.

In Kerala, of the 20 Lok Sabha seats at stake, the Congress did not win a single one. Gandhi is likely to overhaul the party's state unit in a bid to revive its fortunes. In West Bengal, which has 42 LS seats, the Congress has gained four seats taking its tally to six.

The Left parties are in power in West Bengal and are the main opposition in Kerala. With 64 Lok Sabha MPs, they also wield considerable influence in the UPA and hence on the Manmohan Singh government, which they are supporting from outside.

In Bengal, Gandhi is likely to keep the Marxists in good humour and may not do anything to disturb the status quo, at least until the party is in a position to pose a credible challenge to the Marxists.

One possibility is that it would woo Mamata Banerjee back. The latter's Nationalist Trinamool Congress is in the doldrums after winning just one LS seat in the state. NTC leaders, including former rebel Sudip Bandopadhyay, are reportedly quite open to the idea, the sources said.

The announcement about these changes is expected in the next few days.

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