Will have new party president latest by June: Congress Working Committee

The election will likely be held on May 29, which means interim presidentship of Sonia Gandhi will continue for five months
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), which met on Friday, said the party would have an elected president latest by June 2021. This means the ‘interim’ presidentship of Sonia Gandhi — although there is no provision in the party constitution for such a post — would continue for another five months, keeping in view a clutch of assembly elections in April-May.

Political analysts called it an “incremental movement” in addressing the demand voiced by 23 Congress dissidents, called the Group of 23 (G23), that the party needs a full time, visible leadership.

Party general secretary K C Venugopal, who announced the decision, said: "The CWC discussed the schedule of Congress president's elections in May-end, proposed by its election authority. All CWC members unanimously requested the Congress president that internal elections should not interfere with assembly elections," Venugopal said. Madhusudan Mistry heads the party’s internal election mechanism.

The election of a new Congress president will likely be held on May 29. Spokesman Randeep Surjewala said elections to the CWC will also be held but it remains to be seen whether they can be scheduled before or after the election to the Congress chief’s post. In other words, a decision on the central concern of the G23, that the CWC should be elected, not nominated, was postponed.

The meeting, which went on for more than three hours, saw some exchanges, including one between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma. Gehlot charged some leaders with being obsessed with issues of leadership though the party had “given them a lot”. Sharma retorted that the reverse was also true: “Many had given decades of their lives to the party”. Surjewala and Venugopal denied any dissidence.

Rahul Gandhi launched an attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) circumventing leadership issues almost completely.

Party leaders noted the renewed rise in importance of Punjab MP and veteran Congress leader Ambika Soni, amid speculation that she might get her old job — political advisor to the Congress President — back.

When some sought to question the election scheduled, it was Soni who intervened to say that when all authority to take decisions had been given to Sonia Gandhi, there was no need to question her.

Soni is the frontrunner for the job for which there are many contenders — former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath included. “We would have wanted a person like Gehlot. But he does not want to give up the chief ministership of Rajasthan. The family is too distrustful of Kamal Nath who is seen as a person of means and too ambitious: if he becomes political advisor, the family fears a lot may be lost in translation” said a member of the G23.

The G23 is waiting to see the leadership’s response on an important position that will fall vacant shortly: leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Ghulam Nabi Azad’s term will come to an end in February. The leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chaudhury, is also holding two positions: leader of the party in the lower house as well as Pradesh Congress Committee chief in West Bengal.

The G23 had a meeting with Sonia Gandhi in December. The meeting was courteous, cordial and the group expected some movement. But today, they made no secret of their disappointment.

“It is clear that Rahul Gandhi wants to wield power but not the responsibility of running the party. The family wants no challenges from anyone. They are ready to show the door to those who don’t submit. But this is also our party,” said a former Union minister.

Of the several resolutions passed on Friday, one referred to the inadequate consultation and voice vote in the Rajya Sabha that led to the passage of the three farm laws against which farmers are protesting.

The party also discussed their strategy ahead of the Budget Session on issues including the leaked WhatsApp transcripts of journalist Arnab Goswami, where he has claimed advance knowledge of strikes on Pakistan.




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