Even as Ajay Maken resigned as Union minister for housing and poverty alleviation on Saturday, All India Congress Committee general secretary and Mahila Congress incharge Mohsina Kidwai put in her papers three days ago in order to give a free hand to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to undertake the long pending changes in the party organisation.
In her letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Kidwai said she was relinquishing charge as party general secretary and Mahila Congress chief as he felt that Rahul Gandhi should be given the necessary space to bring in younger leaders of his choice.
Besides signalling an imminent shake-up in the Congress , these resignations are also a prelude to an impending reshuffle in the council of ministers.
The two exercises are expected to be conducted almost simultaneously some time this week as several other ministers are also likely to be moved out of the government and deployed in the organisation with an eye on the coming assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattsigarh, Rajasthan and Delhi to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections next year. Some Congress office-bearers could be moved to the government to make way for the new incumbents.
Ambika Soni and Mukul Wasnik had resigned from the government before the last Cabinet reshuffle in October.
Although age is not on her side, Mohsina Kidwai is being mentioned as a likely ministerial candidate in view of her past experience in government and proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Maken is being drafted for party work with an eye on the Delhi elections which pose a tough challenge as three-term Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is losing ground on account of corruption charges and rising prices.
The 49-year-old Maken, who is not on the best of terms with Sheila Dikshit, could be appointed president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee in order to project him as the next Delhi chief minister. Congress insiders say Maken was asked to step down as it was important to send out a signal that the Congress is fielding a young face in the capital.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Road and Transport Minister C P Joshi could also be shifted to the organisation to beef up the team for the forthcoming polls. Jairam Ramesh will be a key member of the party’s campaign committee, a task he undertook in the run-up to the 2004 and the 2009 general elections.
Other office-bearers who could be stripped of their organisational positions include Gulchain Singh Charak, Jagdish Tytler who has been in the eye of a storm in the recent past, and D R Shandil who is now a minister in the Himachal Pradesh government. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad wants to be divested of his organisational responsibilities (he’s general secretary incharge of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu ).On the flip side, Congress office bearer Vilas Muttemwar could be given a ministerial responsibility.
Ambika Soni is tipped to get an important position in the party. It is said she could either be appointed AICC general secretary, a post she held for a long spell before her induction into the government, or be appointed political advisor to Rahul Gandhi.
Party insiders said party president Sonia Gandhi is keen that Rahul Gandhi’s should have a a senior and experienced leader like Soni in his team.
While the changes in the Congress organisation were promised way back in January at the Jaipur chintan shivir, a Cabinet reshuffle has become necessary as several ministerial slots need to be filled.
The railway ministry fell vacant after former minister P K Bansal had to resign after his nephew was caught accepting a bribe from a Railway Board in return for a lucrative posting. Ashwani Kumar put in his papers from the law ministry following allegations that he amended a Central Bureau of Investigation affidavit before it was submitted to the Supreme Court. M K Alagiri quit as chemicals and fertilisers minister when the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam withdrew its support to the United Progressive Allience government. C P Joshi and Kapil Sibal are holding additional charge of the railway and law ministry, respectively.
A number of junior ministers will also be inducted fill the five vacancies created following he departure of the Trinamool Congress from the ruling alliance. There is every chance that members of Parliament from election-bound states and Telangana may be given preference.