M A I N   N E W S

Sonia clips Ambika’s wings
Inducts new faces into CWC
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
As the countdown to the Lok Sabha poll has begun, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today put her election team in place with the induction of a number of young faces in the party organisation and reallocation of work among the present office-bearers.

In her recent interactions with the media, Ms Gandhi had mentioned several times that she would be making minor changes in the party organisation in view of the impending general election. These were finally announced today in the absence of Ms Gandhi, who is on a tour to Jammu.

Further alterations might become necessary in case any of the office- bearers were fielded for the coming Lok Sabha poll.

AICC General Secretary Ambika Soni, who was in the firing line after the party’s defeat in the recent Assembly elections, has survived though her wings have been clipped marginally. She has been divested of the two key Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and has instead been given charge of Uttaranchal though she retains Jammu and Kashmir. Her other charges, including the media department and Congress President’s office, remain unchanged.

Veteran leader Nawal Kishore Sharma, earlier in charge of Uttar Pradesh, is the only AICC General Secretary to have lost his portfolio. In the case of others, the portfolios have only been reshuffled.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, has been expanded to accommodate seven new special invitees.

The effort here is to bring in younger people as well as experienced hands so as to utilise their services for the crucial electoral battle ahead.

These include recently defeated chief ministers Ashok Gehlot and Digvijay Singh, who have been given the charge of Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and Assam and Orissa, respectively.

The other new inductions into the CWC are Rajya Sabha member Prithviraj Chavan, given charge of Gujarat, Lok Sabha chief whip Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, now responsible for Madhya Pradesh, and Ramesh Chennithala, whose other responsibilities have not been altered.

A special effort has been made to appease the Jats with the accommodation of Mr Birender Singh and former minister Balram Jakhar as special invitees into the CWC. Mr Singh, who was earlier member of the Central Election Committee, will look after the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. His greater involvement in organisational matters also means that Bhajan Lal’s bete noire will not be free to pursue factional battles in his home state of Haryana.

Similarly, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has sought to buy peace in Orissa by moving the recently dethroned PCC President Sarat Patnaik to Delhi as AICC secretary, attached to Mr Salman Khurshid. At the same time, Congress veteran J.B. Patnaik, who was reappointed President of the Orissa party unit, is no longer a member of the CWC.

Besides these inductions, the Congress President has also reshuffled the portfolios of the AICC general secretaries. Mr Kamal Nath while retaining other states has lost Orissa, Ms Mohsina Kidwai has got charge of Rajasthan in addition to Punjab, Mr R.K. Dhawan has now added Haryana to his kitty of states while Mr Vyalyar Ravi has lost Karnataka but remains responsible for Maharashtra. Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad has been left free to handle Andhra Pradesh, where Assembly elections are to be held shortly.



Sonia Gandhi hopeful about PM’s peace moves
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 19
Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, today hoped that something positive would come out of the peace initiatives of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee towards Pakistan and said that the disputes between the two countries can be solved only through a dialogue.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi was speaking at a function organised here by the Dogra Sadar Sabha to celebrate inclusion of the Dogri language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.

She said that the Congress fully backed the initiative of the Prime Minister, but the problem is that certain parties were trying to take political benefit of the developments.

She said that the Congress might have committed some mistakes in the past, “but I can say with pride that we have never compromised with our principles although we had to pay the price for that”.

Mrs Gandhi said it was dangerous to pursue such policies which weaken the unity of the country and create tension among the people.

She said that the Congress had a tradition of treating all persons equally without any discrimination. The party had made sacrifices in the interest of the country. “Despite being the largest party, we backed Mufti Sayeed for the post of Chief Minister without ourselves staking the claim for forming a government in Jammu and Kashmir.”

The coalition government should meet the expectations of the people and fulfil the promises that have been made in the common minimum programme.

She said that the Mufti led coalition government had taken many steps towards development of the state and a lot remained to be done.

She said that during the past five years she had come here to participate in the grief of the people of Jammu who faced terrorism. It was for the first time that she had come here in a different atmosphere of celebration.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi congratulated the people for inclusion of the Dogri language in the eighth schedule of the Constitution. She said that all parties contributed in this direction and raised the demand from time to time. She said that she herself wrote to the Prime Minister for granting a constitutional status to the language.

She said that the recognition of the Dogri language had come due to its own strength and beauty. It is the duty of any government to respect the aspirations of the people. She recalled the sacrifices of the Dogra soldiers in the battlefields and said they have been great warriors.

Mrs Gandhi honoured several persons who have contributed towards development of the Dogri language and culture. They include, Mr Madan Mohan Sharma, Mr Yash Sharma, Mr Narsinghdev Jamwal, Mr Om Goswami, Mr Dhian Singh, Mr Jatinder Udhampuri, Mr Tara Samailpuri, Mr Shiv Nirmohi, Mr Mohan Singh, Mr Shiv Dev Singh, Mr Rameshwar Sharma, Mr Ghulam Mohammad, Mr Gianeshwar Sharma, Mr Prem Nath Khajuria, Mr Raj Narain, Mr Dev Dass, Mr T.S. Batra, Mr Harshwardhan, Mr Kavi Rattan and Mr Parveen Kesar.

Earlier, Mr Arjun Singh, CWC member, said that the Dogri language had received the constitutional status because of its richness and not because of the efforts of any single person.

Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed said that the government will take steps for the welfare of writers and those engaged in promotion of culture.

Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, PCC President, said that no individual should take credit for inclusion of Dogri in the eighth schedule.

This was foremost in the manifesto of the Congress in the Assembly elections last year and the issue was included in the common minimum programme of the coalition government before the Cabinet sent a resolution to the Centre in this regard.

Among others who were present on the occasion were, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Ambika Soni, Mr Mangat Ram Sharma, Deputy Chief Minister, Mr G.S. Charak, president of the Dogra Sadar Sabha and Prof M.R. Puri, a former Vice-Chancellor of Jammu University.


Sonia condemns ministers’ working
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 19
The functioning of certain ministers was criticised by the Congress legislators in a meeting convened by the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, here this evening to review the functioning of the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.

The meeting provided an opportunity to certain dissidents to ventilate their feelings against certain ministers belonging to the party who, they alleged, were not working satisfactorily.

Mrs Gandhi had last month told the dissidents that she would review the functioning of each minister. The Congress ministers and legislators participated in the meeting.

It is learnt that certain legislators pointed out that some ministers were taking interest in projecting their own image rather than that of the party. They suggested that credit should be given to the party while undertaking development works rather than the ministers claiming it as their own achievement.

They said the delay in implementation of the report of the Wazir Commission, which had recommended three new districts for Jammu, was damaging the image of the Congress that had promised its implementation during the elections.

It is learnt that some leaders also raised the issue of continued discrimination with the Jammu region that was also damaging the party.

Later, the Chief Minister, Mufti Sayeed, hosted a dinner for Mrs Sonia Gandhi and legislators of the parties which were partners in the coalition.

She is learnt to have briefly discussed the issue of seat sharing in the coming Lok Sabha elections with the Mufti.

Earlier, on her arrival here in a regular flight, Mrs Gandhi was accorded a warm welcome. School- children lined on both sides of the road to greet her.

However, the traffic was put out of gear in the city for several hours as the police miserably failed to regulate the movement of vehicles. Schoolchildren had to walk long distances on foot. There were traffic jams everywhere, except the road on which Mrs Sonia Gandhi was to drive to the Raj Bhavan.

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