More youth to get key Congress roles: Digvijaya Singh

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) More youth could be given key roles in the party after Rahul Gandhi's elevation as Congress vice president, party general secretary Digvijaya Singh has said.

"More youth are likely to have a role in various party bodies, including in the all-powerful Congress Working Committee (CWC)," Digvijaya Singh, who works closely with Rahul Gandhi, told IANS in an interview.

"The Congress always gives chances to youth," he said.

Digvijaya Singh said: "A party reshuffle is needed. There is an urgency to the exercise, but no time limit can be set."

Rahul Gandhi, 42, who was made Congress vice president Jan 19, is finalising the much-awaited party reshuffle, which will present a team to strategise for the 2014 general elections. Rahul Gandhi heads the party's coordination panel for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, which will test his leadership skills.

According to Digvijaya Singh, Rahul Gandhi's new team must be in place at the earliest as assembly polls this year will test the party's strength before the big political battle. Assembly polls in nine states are scheduled this year, including five big ones, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, where the Congress will have a direct contest with the BJP.

Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland in the northeast go to the polls next month, while voting in Mizoram will be held later this year.

The reshuffle in the party was delayed by a rejig in Manmohan Singh's cabinet, which finally unfolded Oct 28, 2012, after months of consideration.

Rahul Gandhi's imprint in the cabinet reshuffle was evident with independent charge of ministries being given to relatively young leaders Jitendra Singh, 42; Sachin Pilot, 35; Jyotiraditya Scindia, 42, and Manish Tewari, 47, besides the reinduction of former United Nations official Shashi Tharoor.

Party sources said Rahul Gandhi's close aides Jitendra Singh, besides party MPs Ashok Tanwar and Meenakshi Natarajan, could get bigger responsibilities in the party.

Congress insiders said Rahul Gandhi may not execute sweeping changes and would retain many senior leaders "to benefit from their experience and depth of understanding of issues" while bringing in younger leaders.

In his first informal interaction with senior leaders after taking over as vice president, Rahul Gandhi told them that he would meet them "individually and collectively" to take their feedback.

He also urged senior leaders to "work together and hard" towards implementing the Jaipur Declaration approved by the party at its introspection-cum-strategy session, Chintan Shivir, in Jaipur Jan 18-20.

At the session, Rahul Gandhi was also responsible for one-third of the 350 delegates being from frontal organisations like the Youth Congress and National Students Union of India.

In his acceptance speech during the All India Congress Committee session Jan 20 in Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi flagged the need for transforming the Congress' age-old systems and involving youth in decision making.

(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at amit.a@ians.in)

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