Congress party elects president by September 2022, Rahul Gandhi to “consider” leadership
New Delhi: The Congress Party finally announced a schedule for internal elections on Saturday October 16, including the election of the next party president, a move that has been put on hold since the resignation of former Party President Rahul Gandhi in July 2019 to complete next September, a decision made during a session of the Working Committee of Congress (CWC) on Saturday.
Three important developments took place at the CWC meeting. First, a detailed schedule for the internal elections was announced. Second, the party’s interim leader Sonia Gandhi made a strong remark by saying she was a “full-time and practical President of Congress”. Third, Rahul Gandhi responded to the party leaders’ request to assume the top post by saying that he would “consider” it, but not without reminding them of the need to align it with the party’s ideology and vision bring to.
The detailed election schedule was announced after the meeting by KC Venugopal, the party’s general secretary responsible for organization. He said the electoral process will begin on November 1st, when canvassing for the party begins and will last through the end of March next year. In the next five and a half months until mid-August, the process for the election of members and officials of the district and state units will take place.
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He added that the election of the President of Congress will take place between August 21 and September 20 next year, while the election of the CWC members will take place in a plenary session – the dates of which will be announced later, but preferably in September or October next year.
“Every leader at today’s meeting said she has deep trust in the leadership and skills of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who works 24/7 for the party despite her health problems. These constant discussions about interim or full-time presidents were deprecated by the CWC members themselves. They asked Sonia Gandhi to lead the party until the internal elections are over, ”said Randeep Singh Surjewala, the chief spokesman for Congress, to reporters after the meeting on Saturday.
“There were also several CWC members who wanted Rahul Gandhi to give the party a strong push. The entire CWC agreed on this. He thanked everyone and said he was grateful for their trust in him, ”he added.
During the meeting, Rahul Gandhi reportedly said that he was “humbled” by the request of the members who asked him to assume the office of party president, but that they should be aware of the party’s “strong ideology”. He is known to have taken the example of the appointment of a Dalit chief minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, in the Punjab, a move that, in his opinion, would not have been possible in any other party.
“He said he would consider it, but not unless all party leaders (those present at the meeting) understood that the party needs them to stand together for the ideology and vision of the party that supports the unheard voices . Some leaders then asked that if he doubted it they would not. To which he replied that he had no doubts, but it was necessary to repeat this, “said a senior party leader who attended the CWC meeting on Saturday, asking for anonymity.
No mid-term elections for president
In doing so, the party basically ruled out an interim election of the congress president, as some of the party leaders demanded a systemic overhaul of the organization. Senior party leaders said Sonia Gandhi will remain the party leader until the entire internal election process is completed by the end of next year.
If Congress had opted for a mid-term election for a party president, the term would end at the end of next year, as the last election took place in 2017, when Rahul Gandhi took over the top post in December. The term of office of the party president in Congress is five years from the last organizational election according to the amended party constitution.
“The question no longer arises as the election plan has already been announced,” Venugopal told reporters at a press conference whether Rahul Gandhi could take over the elections earlier, as some leaders had called for.
According to people who were aware of the developments, Rajasthan’s Prime Minister Ashok Gehlot spoke at the meeting on Saturday about how Rahul Gandhi should become President of Congress and that “almost all” participants supported the proposal.
“The plenary session could take place around the end of September next year. Such a schedule enables the overall organizational elections. If only the congressional election had taken place, the term would have expired in a few months, so this seems like a more workable approach, “said a senior party leader, aware of the developments, and asked for anonymity.
“I am full-time president”: Sonia Gandhi
Earlier in the day, party leader Sonia Gandhi set the tone of the meeting in her opening speech, saying she was a “full-time and practical Congress President” who was “in regular contact” with similar -oriented political parties. The statement is seen as a sharp reaction to some of the recent criticism from part of party leaders who said there was “no president” in the party.
“I have always valued openness. You don’t have to talk to me through the media. So let’s all have a free and honest discussion. But what should be communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC, ”said Gandhi in her address to the party leaders.
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Interestingly, the meeting on Saturday was one of the first face-to-face meetings of the CWC since the Covid-19 pandemic in India early last year. The CWÜ also passed three resolutions on Saturday on the current political situation, inflation and the agricultural crisis. General secretaries and officials of the electoral states also shared a roadmap with electoral strategies for these states.
Former party president Rahul Gandhi resigned from his top post in July 2019 and assumed responsibility for the performance of Congress in the Lok Sabha elections. A month later, the CWC named former Congress President Sonia Gandhi as the party’s interim leader. Since the party is planning its elections for October next year, it would in fact have been without a full-time president for more than three years, with Sonia Gandhi serving as interim chief.
Anuja is an independent journalist based in New Delhi who covers the intersection of politics and politics. She can be reached at @just_anuja