Cong names four working presidents ahead of Gujarat polls

The Congress today appointed four working presidents in poll-bound Gujarat, even as PCC chief Bharatsinh Solanki was made chairman of the new Pradesh Election Committee.

The Assembly elections are due later this year in the state where the Congress has been out of power for over two decades.

"Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has approved the proposal to appoint Tushar Chaudhary, Paresh Dhanani, Kuwarji Bavaliya and Karsan Das Soneri as working presidents in the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee with immediate effect," AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in a statement.

Solanki will head the 12-member election committee which has as its members senior leaders such as Mohansinh Rathwa, Shaktisinh Gohil, Naresh Raval besides former PCC chiefs Arjun Modhwadia and Siddharth Patel.

Seven AICC office bearers, including Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, Rajya Sabha member Madhusudan Mistry, Irshad Baig Mirza, Paresh Dhanani, Deepak Babaria, Prabhaben Taviad and Khurshid Ahmed Sayied, have also been made its ex-officio members.

Four members of the frontal organisations have been made ex-officio members of the Pradesh Election Committee, besides seven other special invitees.

The please-all appointments have been made while seeking to strike a right balance of caste and region to take on the BJP in poll-bound Gujarat.

The appointments came a day after the BJP named its top leader and Finance Minister Arun Jaitly as the incharge for elections in Gujarat and four Union ministers--Narendra Singh Tomar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Jitendra Singh and P P Choudhary-- as co-incharges.

State party spokesperson Manish Doshi said among the four new working presidents, one is from Patel community, one is an OBC, one is a tribal and one is a Dalit.

"The working presidents will assist Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Bharatsinh Solanki to take on the BJP in the upcoming state elections," Doshi said.

While Dhanani, who represents Amreli in state Assembly, is a Patel leader, Chaudhary, a former Union minister represents a tribal community. Bavaliya, an MP, hails from an OBC (Other Backward Classes) community while Soneri, a two- time former MLA, is a Dalit.

Dhanani and Bavaliya belong to Saurashtra, Chaudhary to South Gujarat and Soneri North Gujarat. The current state unit Congress chief Solanki is from Central Gujarat district of Anand.

The contest is considered as a prestige battle for the ruling party in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Congress had yesterday declared the names of leaders who would head different committees of elections.

Notably, Union minister Arun Jaitley was yesterday appointed the BJP's election in-charge for the high-stakes state Assembly polls.

In a battle of political oneupmanship ahead of polls, the BJP has been trying to solder its strained relations with Patels or Patidars, a numerically strong bloc considered loyal to the saffron party. The community has been fighting for reservation under OBC quota in the government jobs and education.

In a move viewed as an outreach to smaller castes under the OBC umbrella, the Centre recently announced a commission for sub-categorisation of other backward classes for an "equitable distribution" of reservation benefits and also raised the income ceiling for "creamy layer" from the current Rs 6 lakh per annum to Rs 8 lakh.

Elections are likely to be held in Gujarat in November/ December as the term of the present Legislative Assembly ends in January next year.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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