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Sonia retakes charge of a battered Congress

September 09, 2011 21:53 IST
Sonia Gandhi is once again 'in charge' of the Congress party with the group of four set up by her to run the party 'in her absence' having been disbanded on her return from the USA where she was underwent a surgery for an undisclosed ailment.

Sources say that the since the mandate of the group, which included A K Antony, Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel and Janardhan Dwivedi, was to run the affairs of the party "in her absence", it was immediately dissolved on her return on Thursday morning.

During the time she was away, the group met around seven times to discuss various party related issues but did not take any key decisions as it was decided to wait for her return.

The setting up of such a group had led to a great deal of speculation as well as heartburn with senior leaders like Pranab Mukherjee and Digvijaya Singh being left out of it with the buzz centering around its numerous implications.

But very little was heard or seen of the group during the five weeks that the Congress president was away, with the government taking over the bulk of management of key issues like the Anna Hazare movement and the running of Parliament and the party virtually taking a back seat during this time.

Some reckon it was more by design than otherwise.

And now, in a bid to signal that the running of the Congress party by its leadership was once again back on track, a meeting of the All India Congress Committee general secretaries and Congress Working Committee in charges of states has been convened at 6.30 pm Saturday where Sonia Gandhi would not be present as she has been advised complete rest.

These meetings are held routinely to give the Congress president reports on the various states and the organisational set up in the states and where instructions are issued to general secretaries on planning for the month ahead.

The meeting did not take place while she was away and is now being held on her return even though she would still not be in a position to attend. But sources say that whatever instructions are needed to be conveyed would be done through her political secretary Ahmed Patel and the general secretary in charge of organisation Janardhan Dwivedi.

A meeting of the core committee was also held on Friday at the residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but here again the Congress president was not present. The core committee normally meets on Friday to take stock of various current issues and discuss the combined government and party stand on these issues.

It is interesting that Rahul Gandhi was not invited to become a member of the core committee in Sonia Gandhi's absence even though two of the members of the group of four, Ahmed Patel and A K Antony, are already members.

Sources say that Home Minister P Chidambaram briefed the core committee on the investigation into Delhi high court blast, which has claimed 13 lives so far, and the progress made so far in zeroing in on leads.

The PM has instructed that security should be beefed up in both the Supreme Court and the various high courts spread across the country.

Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid was invited to the core committee meeting as the PM wanted an update on the Lokpal Bill and the deliberations of the standing committee which would be looking at the bill. Khurshid was one of the ministers who was involved in the drafting of the bill.

Sources said the core committee also discussed the issue of the appointment of the Gujarat Lokayukta by the state governor Kamla Beniwal, which has agitated Chief Minister Narendra Modi, leading to the Parliament not being allowed to function for the last five days before it was adjourned sine die.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat has gone to the court to stop the appointment even as the state Congress has taken a rigid stand that they are in the right and would not back off and compromise on the issue.

BJP leaders have been saying that the PM was of the view that the Governor may be asked to take back her appointment, but Congress leaders say there is no truth in this, as the party would not compromise with Modi on the issue.

The BJP has been in an attacking mode on the terror strike while the Lokpal Bill continues to be the unfinished agenda of both opposition parties and civil society led by Anna Hazare.

The civil rights activist has called a meeting of his core committee on Saturday at Hazare's village Ralegan Siddhi where they will chalk out their future road map, on how, when and where to take on the government.

It is interesting that senior BJP leader L K Advani will take over from where Anna Hazare has left off the agitation and carry the fight on corruption through his proposed 'rath yatra' which has become the most hotly debated topic in the BJP, along with its implications for that party, its leaders and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha.

Renu Mittal in New Delhi