Congress, govt agog with ‘baseless’ reshuffle buzz

Sonia Gandhi

NEW DELHI: As Parliament reopened for Budget session, strong buzz about a restructuring encompassing the party and the government swept Congress circles on Tuesday afternoon.

There were reports that key Union ministers had offered to resign and take up organizational assignment, a buzz dismissed by top insiders as baseless.Excited speculation about restructuring of the government have been a recurring feature during Parliament sessions, with the pattern stubbornly persisting despite Congress leadership’s consistent refusal to go for fireworks befitting the hype.

That the buzz gained traction notwithstanding the fact that no reshuffle can happen till the budget session gets over in the third week of May was attributed by sources in Congress to growing anxiety within its ranks because of the recent electoral reverses.The partymen were willing to lend an ear to such talk of “massive overhaul” because recent defeats, especially the decimation in UP, has led to the belief that the party could be do something drastic to put the house in order before the coming electoral encounters.

Names of key ministers offering to resign were swirling since Tuesday afternoon, but they all denied it outright. Vyalar Ravi and Jairam Ramesh contradicted the reports, while law minister Salman Khurshid said correspondence with party chief Sonia Gandhi was part regular interaction and feedback.Sources indicated that Khurshid, in the immediate wake of UP debacle, may have indicated his willingness to “discharge any responsibility”, but that was in general terms and could not be interpreted as the determination to leave government in a huff for organizational trenches.The denials, however, failed to stem the speculation.

Sources while dismissing the excited talk of government-organization swap as “bogus” did not rule out the possibility of party seeking to attempt significant changes post-June. Also, after eight years in power and with the government not really setting governance on fire, there may be a rethink among ministers who have long-term calculations in mind.UPA-II is set to complete three years in power and the party is likely to go into election mode next year. The few months left in active government could nudge some ministers to eye organizational assignment with greater enthusiasm, especially with policy paralysis and poor image taking the sheen of ministerial assignment.

Such scenario could mean growing involvement of Rahul Gandhi in organizational affairs. Despite the defeat in UP, the party’s heir apparent remains engaged with the organization, and is said to be holding discussions with key leaders on what could be the road ahead in the gloom of electoral defeats and disarray in the government.

Rahul recently held a two-day review on UP in which he unveiled a new approach for the key state. There are signs of Congress also trying to address organizational paralysis in other major states that are seen as critical to its fortunes in 2014 parliamentary polls.The decision to send Cabinet minister Vyalar Ravi to review Andhra Pradesh and setting up the Antony committee to probe reasons for defeat in UP, Punjab, Goa and a notional victory in Uttarakhand appear to be directed towards plugging the holes in the strategy. – TOI