Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad, the most prominent of the "dissent" letter writers seen to have questioned the leadership of the Gandhis, has lost his post in a major shake-up seen to promote Rahul Gandhi's squad. Ghulam Nabi Azad has been dropped as a general secretary though he remains a part of the Congress Working Committee, the party's top decision-making panel.
Motilal Vora, Ambika Soni and Mallikarjun Kharge have also been removed as general secretaries of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in the Friday shuffle by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) has been reconstituted and P Chidambaram, Tariq Anwar, Randeep Surjewala, and Jitendra Singh have been named as its regular members.
Randeep Singh Surjewala, a Rahul Gandhi loyalist, is among the biggest gainers of the shuffle. He has been named general secretary in charge of Karnataka, a member of the special committee to oversee organizational changes and he remains chief spokesperson. Like him, KC Venugopal is also a member of most committees. Another member of Team Rahul, Jitendra Singh, is now in charge of Assam.
Tariq Anwar, who quit the Congress along with Sharad Pawar and PA Sangma over Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin but returned before the national election last year, has also been made general secretary in charge of Kerala, where elections are due next year.
The reshuffle comes a month after a group of 23 party leaders, in a stunning act of revolt, wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi calling for an overhaul of the party, internal elections and a "full-time, visible leadership". The letter also suggested that the Gandhi family would always be a part of collective decision-making.
In a token move, another leader who was among the letter-writers, Mukul Wasnik, has been made a general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh.
Mukul Wasnik has also been named among the six leaders who are to "assist the Congress president in organizational and operational matters as expressed by her in the CWC meeting on August 24". The others are AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjwala. This special committee is the only sign of any impact of the dissent letter, which split the party down the middle and left the letter writers isolated in the party. The signatories are reportedly unhappy with what they believe are "cosmetic changes" in the party.
Jitin Prasada, another signatory to the letter, has been moved from Uttar Pradesh as in-charge of Bengal, where elections are due next year. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra remains the general secretary in charge of UP.
The dissent letter was seen to be a veiled attack on the Gandhis, especially Rahul Gandhi, who quit as president last year over the Congress's election defeat. Over the past few months, the Congress has been sharply divided with the veterans ranged against what is known to be Rahul Gandhi's core group, which is rooting for his return to the top job.
Mr Azad and other signatories to the letter were attacked as "traitors" at the August 24 meeting of the CWC, in which both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were present.
The meeting ended with the Congress declaring that Sonia Gandhi would remain interim chief until an AICC session in the next six months. It was reportedly also decided that the party would examine the grievances of the letter writers. The special committee announced today is meant to address that promise.