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Congress plans mega rally in Karnataka to mark Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary

The event will be held in Chikmagalur, the place from where Indira Gandhi won a Lok Sabha bypoll in 1978 after the Emergency.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2017 15:32 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Indira Gandhi,Karnataka
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is expected to address a public meeting in Chikmagalur.(Reuters )

The Congress party is planning a mega event in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur in the third week of November to mark the culmination of the year-long celebration of former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s birth centenary this year.

To revive the memories of his grandmother’s ties with Chikmagalur, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is likely to address a public meeting in the picturesque tourist destination. The date of the meeting is being worked out.

The Congress-ruled Karnataka goes to polls in March-April 2018.

Chikmagalur gained national prominence when the late prime minister decided to contest the Lok Sabha by-elections from the constituency in 1978, a year after she was defeated by Raj Narain of Janata Party from Rae Bareli following the Emergency period from 1975 to 1977.

One of her loyalists, DB Chandre Gowda, vacated the seat for her and she defeated former chief minister and Janata Party candidate Veerendra Patil by a margin of more than 77,000 votes.

It was a turning point in Indira Gandhi’s career and the victory gave her a political rebirth and two years later she swept back to power in the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, with the Congress winning 353 seats. However, she contested from Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli this time and defeated the opposition candidate Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia and once again assumed the office of the prime minister.

Following Indira Gandhi’s drubbing in the 1977 elections, senior Congress leader D Devraj Urs split the party in 1978 to form a breakaway faction. Many senior leaders such as Yashwantrao Chavan, Dev Kant Baruah, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, AK Antony, Sharad Pawar, Sarat Chandra Sinha, Priyaranjan Das Munshi, and KP Unnikrishnan joined the Congress (Urs) faction.

Karnataka’s ties with the Congress party are deep.

Following the footsteps of her mother-in-law soon after joining the politics, Congress president Sonia Gandhi contested the 1999 Lok Sabha elections from two seats — Bellary in Karnataka and Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. She defeated BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj from Bellary and Sanjay Singh from Amethi.

Sonia Gandhi, however, chose to represent Amethi and gave up Bellary.

The year-long centenary celebrations coincide with the organisational elections in the 132-year-old party. The election to the Congress president’s post is expected to take place sometime next month though these were initially scheduled between September 16 and October 15.

Sonia Gandhi stated earlier this month that Rahul Gandhi will soon take over the reins of the party.

Congress sources say there could be two possible dates for the next All India Congress Committee (AICC) session – November 14 or the birth anniversary of first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi’s birth anniversary on November 19 – during which the election of the party chief will be endorsed.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, at its meeting on November 7 last year unanimously appealed to Rahul Gandhi to take over the grand old party that was founded on December 28, 1885.

Sonia Gandhi holds the record of being the party chief for more than 19 consecutive years after taking over from Sitaram Kesri in March 1998. During her entire tenure, Sonia Gandhi faced contest only once. She defeated Jitendra Prasada – who served as political advisor to former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao – in a one-sided contest on November 9, 2000.

Once the Congress president is chosen, it will be followed by the elections to the CWC. As per the party constitution, 12 of the 25 CWC members have to be elected by AICC delegates and the rest are appointed by the Congress president.

The entire process of the organisational polls in the Congress has to be completed by December 31 this year as per the deadline set by the Election Commission.

The CWC has not witnessed an election in more than two decades now. The last time CWC witnessed a contest was in 1997 during the Kolkata plenary and prior to that in 1992 at the Tirupati session.

However, a senior Congress functionary referred to the party constitution to suggest that the change of guard could take place anytime. The Congress constitution gives special power to the CWC to take any decision, including the appointment of party chief, with the condition that the move has to be ratified by the AICC within six months.

The CWC exercised the provision on March 14, 1998, to appoint Sonia Gandhi as the Congress president in place of Kesri. The AICC ratified the move on April 6, 1998.

The entire process could happen in one day with the CWC passing a resolution in the morning and the AICC ratifying the move soon after. In Sonia Gandhi’s case, the formalities were completed in less than a month.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 15:29 IST

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