M A I N   N E W S

Digvijay gets charge of poll-bound Bihar
No decision yet on PPCC chief
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25
Senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh was today given the responsibility of the election-bound state of Bihar. He replaces Mr Harikesh Bahadur, who was the AICC in charge of the state during the last poll.

The Congress also announced the names of new Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) for 17 states, but there were no surprises. Except for three changes, Congress president Sonia Gandhi chose to retain the incumbent PCC chiefs for other states, including state unit president of Jammu and Kashmir Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed. However, the same has been kept pending for states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. The delay was being attributed to factional pulls and pressures.

Although AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh had been denying it for days, the decision on his appointment as Bihar in charge was in the offing for some time now. He is also looking after the affairs of Assam, where the incumbent Congress government is fighting hard to stay ahead in the upcoming electoral race.

Congress leaders said Mr Digvijay Singh was given charge of Bihar as he is a former Chief Minister who has dealt with several complex electoral battles in the past. Besides, new circumstances in Bihar demanded that a new person be given this responsibility.

The change, it was stated, became imperative as the ties between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) came under severe strain during the last Assembly elections when seat-sharing negotiations handled by senior leaders Arjun Singh and M.L. Fotedar were marked by rancour and bitterness. “It was important to wipe the slate clean and begin afresh,” remarked a senior AICC leader. That Mr Digivjay Singh enjoys a good rapport with Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav is an added bonus.

Mr Digvijay Singh’s persuasive and diplomatic skills will be put to test in case of Bihar as his first task will be to prevent a split in the secular vote by bringing together LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav. While the latter is quite amenable to a tie up with the LJP, Mr Paswan has already declared that he is not open to this offer.

Mr Digvijay Singh will have to do a tightrope walk in his seat-sharing negotiations as he will be required to drive a respectable bargain for the Congress without annoying Mr Yadav.

With organisation elections nearing completion, the process of naming new PCC chiefs, kickstarted yesterday with the appointment of Mr Ramesh Chennithala as Kerala state unit president, continued today. Although Punjab did not figure in today’s list, a change in the PCC presidentship is not being ruled out. The present PCC chief, Mr H.S.Hanspal, may be replaced with a Dalit to take on the growing clout of the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Following a one-line resolution passed by five PCCs authorising Ms Sonia Gandhi to nominate the presidents, she cleared the names of Mr Mukut Mithi (Arunachal Pradesh), Mr Salman Khursheed (UP), Ms Prabha Rau (Maharashtra), Mr B.D.Kalla (Rajasthan) and Mr Pir Zada Mohammad Sayeed (Jammu and Kashmir).

The AICC also announced PCC presidents for 12 other states, who were elected by their state units. These include Mr Keshav Rao (Andhra Pradesh) Mr Bhuvaneshwar Kalita (Assam), Mr Ravi Nayak (Goa), Mr Lalthanwala (Mizoram), Mr Hoketo Sumi (Nagaland), Mr Nar Bahadur Bhandari (Sikkim), Mr Gurudas Kamat (Mumbai Regional Congress Committee) and Mr Moosa Manikfar Kallikagothi (Lakshwadeep). The new names include Mr O.L Nongtudu (Meghalaya), Mr Kuldeep Sharma (Andaman and Nicobar) and Mr Ketan Patel ( Daman and Diu).


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