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CWC meeting: Congress could elevate Rahul Gandhi as party president as soon as Dec 5

The decision by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) came after an assessment that Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party president would help the Congress in the Gujarat elections

india Updated: Nov 20, 2017 20:22 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress party,Congres president,Rahul Gandhi
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi attends a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting in New Delhi on Monday.(AP)

The Congress’ highest decision-making body approved a roadmap on Monday to elevate Rahul Gandhi, who could become the party president as early as December 5.

The Congress will be holding leadership elections after seven years. Nominations will close on December 4 and applications will be scrutinised a day later. Voting will be held on December 16 but it was unlikely Rahul Gandhi will face a challenge.

The 47-year-old politician, once referred to as the “Reluctant Prince” for his refusal to lead the party or join its last government, has virtually helmed the organisation after his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi took a back seat two years ago. He has been the vice president of the 131-year-old party since January 2013.

Party sources say Sonia Gandhi, long a binding force for the party and known for her ability to build alliances, could take the role of its chief patron or head the Congress Parliamentary Party.

Monday’s decision by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) came after an assessment that Rahul Gandhi’s elevation would help the Congress in the Gujarat assembly elections, to be held in two phases on December 9 and 14.

“We will definitely get more public space, and Rahul Gandhi’s campaign as Congress president will not only galvanise the cadre but also generate goodwill among voters,” said a party leader involved in the campaign strategy for Gujarat.

Over the past months, Rahul Gandhi has shouldered the responsibility of being the chief campaigner, displaying a new confidence in his public speeches as well as on social media that have triggered some unease in the BJP.

A good showing in Gujarat could help the party recover from a string of defeats in state polls. For that, Rahul Gandhi’s ability to stitch political alliance will be put to test in a state that is seeing the emergence of several young leaders, especially along caste lines, whose support could be a swing factor.

Gujarat elections came up in Monday’s meeting too when in a brief intervention Rahul Gandhi said the party should “aim for the eye of the fish” in the state polls, alluding to an archery contest fought by Arjuna in the epic Mahabharata.

He also said the party should force the government to answer questions on alleged corruption in the Rafale defence deal and the charges against BJP president Amit Shah’s son, Jayesh.

The Congress has not seen a contest for the party’s top post since 2000 when late Jitendra Prasada unsuccessfully challenged Sonia Gandhi.

Asked if Rahul Gandhi could face a challenge, party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Congress has had a history of contests.

“Congress is the only party which protects democracy in the country and within the party. This has been going on since Mahatma Gandhi’s time. Even Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had fought against a candidate fielded by Gandhiji. But their affection for each other had never come down,” he said.

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

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

The entire process of the organisational polls has to be completed by December 31 in keeping with the deadline set by the Election Commission.

First Published: Nov 20, 2017 12:14 IST