Top Congress panel may have its first elections in 18 years

  • DK Singh and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 18, 2015 02:11 IST

In a move that is set to catapult many new faces to the top echelons of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have decided to revert to the long-abandoned practice of electing members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the apex decision making body of the party.

The CWC will be reconstituted with elected members at the AICC Plenary that is likely to be held after the election of the Congress president in June or July.
If Congress follows through Rahul’s decision, it would mark the biggest reform in the party in two decades. Rahul’s earlier attempts at democratizing the party have not turned out as hoped. The last CWC elections took place in 1997 when Sitaram Kesri was the party president. Before that, elections were held in 1992 after a gap of about two decades.

Sources said Rahul has “made up his mind” to bring elected members in the CWC to “empower” those with experience and grassroot support. There is rising chorus in the Congress for the party vice-president to take over the reins of the party. “It (Rahul’s elevation) is probable but Rahul has not revealed his mind on the issue yet,” a senior party functionary told HT.

As per the Congress constitution, 12 of the 25-member CWC have to be elected by the AICC, while others are appointed by party chief. Since Sonia took over the reins of the party in 1998, there have been no CWC elections.

However, Sonia has often listed difficulties she has been facing in constituting the CWC since 1998. “Nominating CWC is not an easy task. Somebody will complain that he has been left out and why the other was taken. Somewhere someone will be left out,” she had said at the AICC meeting in Delhi’s Talkatora stadium on November 2, 2010.

Although Rahul’s so-called experiments in democratization — through internal elections in the youth and student wings of the Congress — did not pay much electoral dividends, the young leader is said to be “determined” to “democratize all levels” of the organization.

The possible elections to the CWC are likely to be held at the next AICC session in March-April.

As part of the revival plan, the party is mulling sweeping changes in its functioning and the constitution. Some of the suggestions that came up include amending the party constitution to incorporate 50% reservation for OBCs, SCs, STs and minorities in state and district committees. This includes 33% quota for women.

Reducing the tenure of office bearers from five to three years besides doing away with dual – active and primary – membership and holding block level organisational elections instead of booth level were some of the other proposals suggested by the senior leaders at last Tuesday’s CWC meeting.

A final decision on these issues would be taken only after consultations with party workers in states followed by ratification of the decisions at the AICC session.

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