Message to letter writers as Sonia Gandhi makes key party appointments
New Delhi: In a clear message to those who recently wrote a dissent letter challenging her leadership, Congress president Sonia Gandhi Thursday formed a five-member panel in Rajya Sabha including her confidants and elevating two young MPs to senior positions in Lok Sabha.
Ahmed Patel, KC Venugopal and Jairam Ramesh will be part of the Rajya Sabha Committee, which will also include Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and party's deputy leader Anand Sharma.
Azad and Sharma are signatories to the letter that demanded an overhaul of the Congress party and a new "full-time and visible" party president. They were attacked by party leaders in the Congress Working Committee meeting on Monday, where some even sought action against them.
Ramesh has also been appointed the chief whip in Rajya Sabha, a post that fell vacant after Bhubaneswar Kalita quit the party and joined the BJP.
Former minister and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, who was also a signatory to the letter, did not find a place in the strategy committee.
The group will take a call on the party's floor strategy with sources saying the idea is to strengthen floor management.
In the Lok Sabha, Gandhi elevated party MP from Assam Gaurav Gogoi and made him the deputy leader of Congress, while Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu was made the party's whip.
The two, along with leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, chief whip K Suresh and another whip Manickam Tagore would form a five-member Committee of floor leaders in the lower house.
It is a move by the Congress to strengthen its team of floor leaders in the Lower House, party leaders said, adding it is also a message to dissenters like Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari in Lok Sabha and Azad and Sharma in the upper house.
Bittu, a three-time MP from Punjab who has been entrusted with the responsibility as the Congress whip in the Lok Sabha, trumps his Punjab colleague Tewari, also a three-time MP.
Currently, Bittu represents Ludhiana, which had earlier elected Tewari, who now is MP from Anandpur Sahib. Bittu had won from Anandpur Sahib in 2009.
Party leaders said Tewari and Tharoor were aspiring for positions in Lok Sabha.
The opposition party did not have a deputy leader in Lok Sabha -- the last was in the previous Lok Sabha when Amarinder Singh was on the post before he became the chief minister of Punjab.
The appointments came ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which is likely to commence from September 14.
Gogoi hails from Assam, where Assembly polls are due early next year. The MP from the Kaliabor Lok Sabha constituency, he was the party's whip in the House till now and has been elevated.
Gogoi is the son of former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi.