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Congress issues gag order to leaders

New Delhi: In a snub to party leaders speaking out without authorisation, Congress today virtually issued a gag order asking those not designated as official spokespersons not to air their views through the media.

Though party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed maintained that it is "not a gag order", the AICC made it clear that "only" spokespersons are authorized to speak on behalf of the party.

Putting out a list of the five senior spokespersons and 13 spokesperson on Twitter, AICC Communication Department Chairman Ajay Maken said, "Only the spokespersons as in the linked list are authorised to speak on behalf of the party."

Though Ahmed repeatedly denied that the party is voicing any opposition to any particular leader, the buzz in the AICC was that it was directed at former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari and former party spokesperson Rashid Alvi.

Both have made certain comments, which were not found in tandem with the party's official line. Moreover, there is talk of an internal rivalry among young leaders for media space.

Citing the example of the arrangement of beat-wise correspondents in media organisations, the spokesperson said if leaders start speaking to non-beat reporters, this will definitely cause some heartburn among those covering Congress, an analogy, which triggered strong response from mediapersons.

"There are 18 spokespersons in the party. It is the request by the Chairman to media that ask them what is the party line...this is not against any specific person," Ahmed said.

Asked what should the media do if Rahul Gandhi speaks to them, he said, "Rahul Gandhi is the Vice President and Sonia
Gandhi is the President. What they say is the official line and that is what we communicate to you."

To questions about the position of AICC general secretaries as far as talking to media is concerned, Ahmed, who himself
holds the post and looks after three states, said they can talk on issues related to their states.

He said while they can talk on those issues, "The official line of the party on day to day issues is given by spokespersons."

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