M A I N   N E W S

Natwar not included in revamped CWC
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 6
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today chose to make minor and necessary changes instead of going in for a major overhaul of the party organisation when she reconstituted the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and the AICC secretariat today.

Although there was widespread speculation that Congress heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi will be inducted into the party’s highest decision-making panel, his name did not figure in today’s list. However, party leaders pointed out that the five vacancies in the CWC would be filled after the AICC plenary session later this month, indicating that he may be nominated at that stage.

It is expected that Rahul Gandhi will be inducted following a vociferous demand from the AICC delegates who will assemble in Hyderabad for the AICC plenary from January 21 to 23.

Although 12 of the 25 CWC members are to be elected, all state units and the AICC had passed resolutions authorising Mrs Gandhi to nominate all members. Besides naming 20 members to the CWC, Mrs Gandhi also nominated another 27 as permanent and special invitees to the CWC in an effort to give greater representation to different regions, generations and castes.

Former External Affairs Minister K.Natwar Singh, who was forced to quit the government after the Volcker controversy and was already dropped from the party’s steering committee, has not found a place in the reconstituted CWC. His old job as chairman of the AICC foreign affairs department has now gone to senior leader Karan Singh, who retains his place as a permanent invitee to the CWC.

The long-awaited exercise saw Mrs Gandhi retaining Ambika Soni, Margaret Alva, Ashok Gehlot, Digvijay Singh, Janardhan Dwivedi and Mukul Wasnik as general secretaries who will, therefore, continue in the CWC. Four new faces — B.K.Hariprasad from Karnataka, Saifuddin Soz from Kashmir, Pondicherry’s V. Narayanswamy and former Madhya Pradesh minister Urmila Singh — have been inducted into the CWC. Mr Ahmed Patel retains his powerful position as political secretary to the Congress President while Mr Motilal Vora continues as party treasurer.

Mrs Soni’s retention as a crucial member of MrsGandhi’s core team also indicates that she is unlikely to move to the government though there had been intense speculation about her induction into Union Cabinet. On the other hand, Mr. Oscar Fernandes, who is presently in charge of three ministerial portfolios and also heads the party’s Central Election Authority, has been given charge of North Eastern states amidst indications that he will move full-time to the party.

Since chief ministers and state unit chiefs are not CWC members, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Vilasrao Deshmukh and UPPCC president Salman Khursheed have not found a place in the revamped CWC. Mr Satyavarat Chaturvedi, who was in charge of Uttar Prdesh, has been dropped as AICC general secretary and has instead been named as permanent invitee to the CWC. Another long-time family loyalist M.L.Fotedar did not figure in the reconstituted CWC but has been “downgraded” as a permanent invitee. Former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar’s surprise inclusion as a special invitee to the CWC is being seen as a message to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as the two have been at daggers drawn with each other.

It was expected that the crucial charge of Uttar Pradesh would be handed over to somebody else (it has now been entrusted to Ashok Gehlot ) since Mr Chaturvedi and state unit chief Salman Khursheed had been locked in a running battle for several months.

Besides revamping the CWC and the AICC secretariat, Mrs. Gandhi has also reallocated the “portfolios” of the office-bearers ahead of the assembly elections in five states this year. Former Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily, who has been made a permanent invitee, has been given charge of Tamil Nadu and Kerala while West Bengal will be looked after by Margaret Alva and Pondicherry by B.K.Hariprasad. Assam remains Digivjay Singh’s responsibility. Mrs Soni who had ad hoc charge of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will be responsible for Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh along with CWC, media department and AICC sessions. Mr Janardan Dwivedi has been given charge of Punjab and Chandigarh along with Haryana.



Cabinet cuts food subsidy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 6
The UPA government today decided to cut the food subsidy by Rs 4,524 crore by reducing the quantity of wheat and rice issued through the PDS and Antodaya Anna Yojana, evoking a strong protest from the Left parties, which are propping up the Manmohan Singh government from outside.

Briefing reporters after the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the food subsidy for the current year would come down by Rs 4,524 crore.

For the Antodaya scheme meant for the BPL families, Mr Mukherjee said there would be no change in the effective price but the quantum would be lowered to 30 kg from 35 kg hitherto, as in the case of the BPL families. He said the CCEA increased the issue price for APL by 70 per cent of the economic cost and for BPL by 50 per cent of the cost.

The actual issue price for wheat for APL stands at Rs 705 per quintal and for rice the price is Rs 915 a quintal.

The economic cost of rice in 2000 was ruling at Rs 1,130 and that of wheat was Rs 830 a quintal.

Mr Mukherjee said the issue prices of wheat and rice were formulated in 2000 and since 2003, there had been no revision even as the procurement prices had increased every year substantially and thus the CCEA had decided to revise the issue prices. The CPM in a statement said the move to cut food subsidy was “a very retrograde move which is a betrayal of the UPA government’s commitment to the people.”

“This move will limit the turnover of the FCI and affect its ability to undertake procurement at minimum support prices of crop. At a time when farmers continue to reel under severe agrarian crisis, the attempt should be to ensure stable prices through procurement,” it said.

The CPI in a statement said, “Rather than improving and streamlining the PDS, the government is out to dismantle it. As it is, the total offtake from the godowns are fast declining through the years.”


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |