Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Arrives at Parliament to Present the Annual Budget in New Delhi
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram
New Delhi: The Congress Tuesday expanded its panel of spokespersons to strengthen the party’s media reach ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Union ministers P. Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid were named senior spokespersons while minister Shashi Tharoor was appointed spokesperson.

The names were cleared by both party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The party appointed five senior spokespersons and 13 spokespersons.

Party MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who quit as spokesperson in 2012 in the wake of a CD controversy, returned to the post.

The decision to expand the panel of spokespersons came within days of the Jan 17 All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting where leaders spoke of the party not being able to effectively highlight the achievements of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

There was also a feeling among party leaders that it has not been able to take due credit for welfare schemes started by the UPA government.

The party Tuesday also appointed 24 “media panelists” to put across its viewpoint on television and other media platforms and 30 panelists who would speak on the national media on issues concerning states.

Apart from Chidambaram and Khurshid, the senior spokespersons include union ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma and former union minister Mukul Wasnik.

The spokespersons include Jyotiraditya Scindia, P.C. Chacko, Raj Babbar, Randeep Surjewala, Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Sandeep Dikshit, Sanjay Jha, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, Shakeel Ahmed, Shaktisinh Gohil and Shobha Ojha, apart from Tharoor and and Singhvi.

While Rita Bahuguna Joshi is a former chief of the Uttar Pradesh unit of Congress, Shobha Ojha is the chief of Mahila Congress.

The list of media panelists includes Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla.

Party sources said those given responsibilities include young MPs and MLAs who have worked with Rahul in his earlier assignments.

The list includes Akhilesh Pratap Singh, Anant Gadgil, Ashok Tanwar, Balchandra Mungekar, Brijesh Kalappa, Chandan Yadav, C.R. Kesavan, Deepak Amin, Deepender Hooda, Krishna Byre Gowda, Meem Afzal, Meenakshi Natarajan, Mukesh Nayak, Nadeem Javed, P.L. Punia, Prem Chandra Mishra, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Ragini Nayak, Rajeev Gowda, Salman Soz and Sanjay Nirupam.

The panelists on national media on state issues include Abdul Rasool Khan, Abhay Dubey, A. Narayan, Amrita Dhawan, Anil Bhardwaj, Barkha Shukla Singh, Bharat Kumar, Bhawana Jha, Chetan Rawal, Chitto Nysou, Dinesh Gundurao, Hilal Ahmed, Jaiveer Shergill, Jyoti Mani, Manik Tagore, Manoj Pandey, Mohammad Akbar, Mohit Sharma, Peter Alphonse, Pranav Jha, Ranju Ramawat, Rashmikant, Sachin Sawant, Sarwat Jehan Fatima, Shahnawaz Sheikh, Sulaiman Mohd. Khan, V.T. Balram, Victor Keishing, Vidit Chaudhry and Vivek Bansal.

Sources said the party was keen to increase its reach among people through various media.

Some leaders who met Rahul Gandhi after the AICC meet told him that there was a need to appoint “aggressive spokespersons” to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The party also has to contend with the growing presence of the Aam Aadmi Party, led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The Lok Sabha elections are slated to take place in April-May.

Congress sources said Tuesday’s expansion was “major” and the party had fewer spokespersons earlier. Sandeep Dikshit, Raj Babbar and P.C. Chacko are among the MPs who have been retained as spokespersons.