Rahul to head Congress 2014 poll panel

New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi will head the six−member Congress coordination panel for the 2014 general elections constituted by party chief Sonia Gandhi, the party announced Thursday.

Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi in a release said Rahul Gandhi, who already has a de facto number 2 status in the party, tops the list of members of the crucial Election Coordination Committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Among other members of the panel are Sonia Gandhi's political adviser Ahmed Patel, party general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi, Digvijaya Singh and Madhusudan Mistry and party strategist and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.

The Congress president also formed three sub−groups under the panel to look after specific issues such as pre−poll alliances, manifesto and government programmes, and communications and publicity.

The announcement on the groups was made at the party's 'Samvad Baithak' (Dialogue Session) held Nov 4 at Surajkund, a town bordering Delhi in Haryana.

While Rahul's close aide and Minister for Youth Affairs Jitendra Singh has been included in the sub−group on pre−poll alliances, other young leaders such as Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, Power Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, MP Deepender Hooda (son of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda), and Congress spokesman Sandeep Dikshit have been included in the sub−panel on communications and publicity.

Rahul's imprint was also visible on the Manmohan Singh cabinet reshuffle Oct 28, which had brought in a mix of youth and experience.

Ever since, there has been speculation that Rahul Gandhi may be given a more prominent role in the party during the planned organisational reshuffle.

Thursday's announcement is being seen in the party as giving a clear leadership role to Rahul Gandhi as the Congress, hit hard by allegations of corruption over the past one year, prepares for the next big electoral challenge of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Rahul is also expected to rope in more younger leaders for party work.

Among the members of the sub−group on pre−poll alliances are Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Petroleum Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Youth Affairs Minister Jitendra Singh besides senior leaders Suresh Pachauri, Mohan Prakash and Mukul Wasnik, who recently left the ministry of social justice to work for the party.

Besides Antony, the panel on manifesto and government programmes includes Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

The panel would also have Congress spokespersons Sandeep Dikshit and Renuka Chowdhury besides senior leader Ajit Jogi, MP P.L. Punia and special invitee Mohan Gopal.

Besides Digvijaya Singh, senior leader Ambika Soni, who recently left the information and broadcasting ministry to work for the party, has been included in the sub−group on communications and publicity.

Among other members of the panel are Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning Rajeev Shukla and MP Bhakta Charan Das.

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