The ball has been set rolling to choose the new Congress president. Against the backdrop of former party chief Rahul Gandhi’s repeated “no” to the top post, there’s looming suspense over who will be the next head. Veteran party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s recent resignation from the primary membership of the party has added an element of intrigue to the entire process.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of the grand old party, announced a revised schedule for its long-awaited election for the party president on Sunday. The polling will take place on October 17 and its results will be announced on October 19.
The virtual CWC meeting was chaired by interim party chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi from abroad, while several top leaders attended it here.
Those who attended the meeting virtually included former prime minister Manmohan Singh, party’s central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry, KC Venugopal, former union ministers Jairam Ramesh, Mukul Wasnik, and P Chidambaram, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel. Anand Sharma, who was part of the G-23 dissident group, was also present at the meeting.
Addressing the media at party headquarters after the meeting, Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry said, “CWC has approved the final schedule of dates suggested by the Central Election Authority (CEA) of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) for election to the post of Congress president in a meeting on Sunday.”
Mistry said that the date of notification is September 22 and the candidates can file their nominations between September 24 and 30. He said that the last date of withdrawal will be October 8.
“The date of election (if needed) is October 17 (Monday) from 10 am to 4 pm. Date of counting and declaration of result, (if needed) is October 19,” he added.
Congress general secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal told the media that the CWC met under the chairpersonship of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. It considered and approved the final poll schedule given by our CEA chairman Madhusudan Mistry.” He said that the Congress President’s election will be held on October 17 as per our procedure, and it will be held in the state headquarters.
“All the working committee members, permanent invitees, special invitees and both the chief ministers of the party have attended today’s meeting. Unanimously, the CWC approved the final schedule given by the CEA Chairman,” he added. He also said that the CWC also reiterated “its resolve to make the Mehangai Par Halla Bol rally in New Delhi on September 4 and the launch of the Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari… a resounding success.”
Since August 2019, Sonia Gandhi has been in-charge as the interim president after Rahul Gandhi stepped down as the party chief following the poll debacle in 2019.
The CWC had last year decided that elections for block committees and one member each of state Congress units will be held from April 16 to May 31; district committee chiefs will be elected between June 1 and July 20; state chiefs and AICC members between July 21 and August 20; and AICC president between August 21 and September 20.
However, party sources said that the process of the election of Congress President got delayed by a few weeks due to the Bharat Jodo Yatra and since some state units were unable to complete the formalities.
Sunday’s virtual CWC meeting started at 3.30 pm with Sonia Gandhi, who is abroad for medical check-ups, presiding over it.
The new schedule was announced against the backdrop of veteran party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad quitting the primary membership of the party earlier this week on Friday with a hard-hitting five-page resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, lashing out at Rahul Gandhi.
Several leaders, including Gehlot, have publicly asked Rahul Gandhi to return as the party chief and lead the party. However, Rahul Gandhi is said to be not in favour of returning to the top post.