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Rahul Gandhi has kicked off the much-awaited Congress reshuffle, bringing in new faces to manage the grand old party. The Congress vice-president, set to take over the reins of the party from his mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, has also approved a team, which will oversee the internal elections to be held in the coming months. Sonia’s tenure will expire in December this year and Rahul is expected to take over as party chief.
Sonia became the Congress chief through internal polls in 1998.Though Rahul’s upgrade can be done through an executive order and the Congress working committee has already passed a unanimous resolution urging him to take over, the former wants it through a proper route. There has been intense speculation over the changes in the party, as it lost four of the five states to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent Assembly polls. Over the past week, Rahul has replaced office-bearers in charge of party units in Gujarat and Karnataka and Goa, and brought in young leaders as secretaries. According to sources, the changes are unlikely to be a one-time exercise and poll-bound states would get the primary attention. The changes announced relates to veteran Digvijaya Singh, who was in charge of Karnataka and Goa, and Madhusudan Mistry, who was heading the central election committee, which decides candidates for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Digvijaya Singh faced a strong reaction from the state unit as the BJP moved fast to form a government in Goa under his watch despite the Congress emerging as the single largest party. While Goa has gone to A Chella Kumar, Singh's deputy in the state, Lok Sabha MP KC Venugopal has replaced Digvijaya in Karnataka, where Assembly polls are due in April next year. Party lawmaker in Maharashtra Amit Deshmukh, son of former Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, will be the All India Congress Committee's (AICC) secretary in Goa. In Gujarat, where polls will be held this year-end, old-hand Gurudas Kamat has been replaced with former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Karnataka Congress chief G Parameshwara, also the home minister, might be changed, as Rahul plans to revamp the state unit. Tweaks are also expected in Himachal Pradesh where polls are due this year-end. Rahul is likely to form his own team to face the challenges, especially the next round of Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in 2018 where the BJP has been ruling for the past three terms. Rahul’s aides Lok Saba member Rajeev Satav and Madhya Pradesh legislator Jitu Patwari have been made AICC secretaries in Gujarat, while Manickam Tagore and former MP Madhu Yashki Goud are the new secretaries in Karnataka. Sources said the changes would be a mix of youth and experience, which means not all seniors stand to lose their positions in the revamp process. Digvijaya, who still holds charge of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, said he was loyal to the party and to the Gandhi family. He also thanked party workers in Goa and Karnataka. Rahul has also addressed the delay in conduct of internal elections as well. Lok Sabha MP Mullapally Ramachandran heads a panel, which will supervise the party's internal elections likely to be completed by October. Earlier, in 2015, Ramachandran had prepared a schedule for internal polls, but the exercise could not be rolled out, as several states had problems with membership lists.