CWC to meet on Aug 10 over leadership crisis in Congress
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) will meet on August 10 to take a call on Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as party president and start the process to pick a successor, according to senior functionaries.
The meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body is expected to end a 77-day-long leadership crisis that erupted with Gandhi’s resignation on May 25, two days after the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were announced.
The Congress suffered its second worst electoral defeat, winning just 52 seats as compared to 303 by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The grand old party had won 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 national elections.
“It has been decided to hold the next Congress Working Committee meeting on Saturday, 10th of August, 11am at AICC [All India Congress Committee],” party general secretary in-charge of organisation KC Venugopal tweeted on Sunday.
The meeting, a party functionary said, is expected to make one last attempt to persuade Rahul Gandhi to withdraw his resignation.
But if he remains adamant, the CWC will discuss various other options -- including having a provisional president till the next Congress chief is elected in organisational polls, or accepting Rahul Gandhi’s suggestion in his July 3 farewell note by entrusting a group of people with the task of beginning the search for a new president, added the senior functionary who asked not to be named.
According to the Congress constitution, the party’s senior-most general secretary takes over as its interim chief in case of a resignation by the incumbent.
“In the event of any emergency by reason of any cause such as the death or resignation of the President elected as above, the senior-most general secretary will discharge the routine functions of the President until the Working Committee appoints a provisional President pending the election of a regular President by the AICC,” it says.
“The President shall preside over the session of the Congress held after his election and during his term of office and he shall exercise all the powers of the Working Committee when it is not in session,” the party constitution adds. In terms of age, 90-year-old Motilal Vora is currently the senior-most general secretary in the party, holding the charge of administration. In terms of experience, it is Ghulam Nabi Azad (70), the general secretary in-charge of Haryana who also holds the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
There have been divergent voices in the Congress over the next party chief. While some senior leaders, including Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, Shashi Tharoor and Karan Singh, have pitched for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to take the charge, she has nixed the suggestion as per Rahul Gandhi’s line that the next Congress president should be someone from outside the Gandhi family. Several other names, including those of the party’s younger leaders, have been doing the rounds as contenders for the Congress president’s post.
Veteran leader Karan Singh reiterated that the Congress has been harmed due to indecision over the leadership issue and cautioned that remaining without a chief could be seriously detrimental to the party. He added that Priyanka Gandhi will be a “unifying force” and galvanise the party cadre if she takes over as the Congress president.
Mumbai Congress leader Milind Deora on Sunday said he agreed with Amarinder Singh’s suggestion that the next Congress chief should be a young leader and proposed the names of Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia for the post of the party’s national president. “In my view, Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia have all these qualities and can provide strength to the organisation and vigour to the opposition space,” he said.
On Sunday, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that the CWC should appoint an interim president immediately and then hold polls for the party’s post as a leader elected by partyworkers will be empowered and have more credibility.
“When we spoke with Rahul Gandhi, he said ‘I believe in a culture of accountability’. If Rahul Gandhi has done this, then it is relevant for everyone. This principle is not just for one person,” Tharoor told reporters after a meeting of the All India Professionals’ Congress (AIPC), which he heads.
A report prepared by Sam Pitroda, a trusted adviser of the Gandhi family, may also be discussed at the meeting. The report, submitted two weeks ago, lists around 20 suggestions to revive the 134-year-old party. This includes the corporatisation of the party with the appointment of a chief technical officer, a human resources department, and objectives being set for every office bearer.
Since May 25, the Congress has suffered desertions in Goa and Karnataka. Its 10 legislators defected to the BJP in Goa, giving a clear edge to the ruling party in the 40-member assembly.
In Karnataka, 13 Congress legislators resigned from the assembly, resulting in the fall of the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition government in the state.
With the strength of the 225-member House going down, chief minister BS Yediyurappa easily sailed through in the floor trust, and Karnataka thus became the 17th state in the country to be ruled by the BJP either directly or in a coalition.
Apart from its senior leader from Uttar Pradesh, Sanjay Sinh, who resigned from the Rajya Sabha and the party, the Congress has been hit by defections in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well.
The delay in selecting Rahul Gandhi’s successor had also impacted the party’s preparations for the assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand due in October this year. Elections may also be held in Jammu & Kashmir, which is currently under President’s Rule.
(With inputs from PTI)