Congress axes Pramod Tiwari as CLP leader

Indo Asian News Service

Lucknow, June 6 (IANS) The Congress Wednesday removed senior leader and nine-time legislator Pramod Tiwari as the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and replaced him with Pradeep Mathur.

"Congress president Sonia Gandhi has nominated Mathur to be the leader of the CLP with immediate effect," party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in a statement in New Delhi.

The move is seen by party leaders in the state as a 'clean up' drive initiated at the behest of Congress general secretary and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi, after the debacle in the assembly polls, held wide-ranging deliberations with party workers and leaders from the state unit on the reasons for the drubbing.

Even as Gandhi hinted at a shake up in the organization, none thought that long-standing party leader Tiwari would face the boot.

"It is shocking, rather scary as I am sure a lot of such things are going to follow," a senior party leader confided to IANS.

Known for his 'connect' across party lines and with almost all leaders in the state, Tiwari has often been accused of being too close to the Samajwadi Party leadership and the Sahara India Parivaar.

Despite his suave image and the tag of proximity with the Gandhi family, some in the party say he was being tolerated for years as the party didn't have too many known faces and tried hands in the state.

Tiwari, who has nine straight wins from Rampur Khas constituency in Pratapgarh district, never left the Congress at its worst times.

Critics say Tiwari has failed to deliver because he banks on the Gandhi charisma more than the party organization, even if it is fractured now in Uttar Pradesh.

The party leadership is likely to announce more changes soon, informed sources say.

Despite a relentless and high-voltage campaign by Rahul Gandhi, the party won just 28 seats in the 403 member Uttar Pradesh house this year.