Congress Working Committee meets today to pick next party chief
Ahead of the crucial meeting, senior party leaders such as Ahmed Patel, AK Antony, Ashok Gehlot, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Motilal Vora, Mallikarjun Kharge and KC Venugopal held meetings through the day to discuss various options.Updated: Aug 10, 2019 11:39 IST
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) will meet on Saturday to pick Rahul Gandhi’s successor as the next party chief after he resigned from the post in May while taking moral responsibility for his party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
The CWC members will meet state unit leaders in batches to seek their views on the next party president. The Congress top body has divided itself into five groups to interact with the leaders. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is in the group that will interact with the leaders from the eastern region of the country and Rahul Gandhi will interact with the leaders from western region. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Manmohan Singh and Ambika Soni will be interacting with the state unit leaders from north,south and northeast respectively.
Ahead of the crucial meeting, senior party leaders such as Ahmed Patel, AK Antony, Ashok Gehlot, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Motilal Vora, Mallikarjun Kharge and KC Venugopal held meetings through the day to discuss various options.
At a meeting of the Congress’s general secretaries, state incharges, state unit chiefs, Congress Legislature Party members and members of Parliament on Friday evening, Rahul Gandhi said: “I have asked Venugopal ji to widen the consultation process and take a considered decision to select the new Congress president. I have asked him to include all those present here in the deliberations.”
A party functionary said that all the 65 All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretaries have been asked to be present at the party headquarters – the venue of the CWC meeting.
On Friday, the day began with Venugopal meeting Congress parliamentary party (CPP) chairperson Sonia Gandhi at her 10-Janpath residence in the national capital. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were also present in that meeting, a senior Congress functionary said.
Later in the evening, Patel and Venugopal again held deliberations with Sonia Gandhi on the issue.
Among the frontrunners for the Congress president’s post is 59-year-old Mukul Wasnik. There are several other candidates in the fray but Congress insiders said that the fact that he is a Dalit, a loyalist, and is experienced in matters related to the organisation and the government, gives Wasnik an edge
The names of two other Dalit leaders Sushik Kumar Shinde and Kharge have been doing the rounds for some time.
Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora earlier proposed the names of young leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot for the top post.
And a section in the party suggested the names of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Priyanka Gandhi and Venugopal as the possible contenders to lead the grand old party.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh and senior leaders Karan Singh and Shashi Tharoor too have pitched for Priyanka Gandhi but she has nixed the suggestion and echoed Rahul Gandhi’s line that the next Congress president should be someone from outside the Gandhi family.
Apart from heading the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India (NSUI), Wasnik has been a party general secretary for many years now and had also served as a minister in the first term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. He is also a four-time Lok Sabha member.
Whoever is elected on Saturday will be the first non-Gandhi to head the 134-old party since March 1998 when Sonia Gandhi took over as the Congress president and remained at the helm for over 19 years till December 2017 when she handed over the baton to Rahul Gandhi.
The decision of the 54-member apex body of the party will end the 77-day-long leadership crisis that erupted with Rahul 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 in the 543 member Lok sabha, eight more than it did in 2014. The Bharatiya Janata Party won 303.
According to a party functionary, the CWC will appoint a provisional president till the next Congress chief is elected in organisational polls.
The delay in selecting Rahul Gandhi’s successor has also impacted the party’s preparations for the assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand due in October this year.
Ahead of the meeting, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that any further delay in selecting the new chief is not an option.
“On Saturday, a consensus builder party president of Congress must be selected. Slightest delay is not an option,” he tweeted.
“In lighter vein, I gave analogy of wise men of Vatican locked in a room indefinitely until they got a nomination! Subsequently, it has to be followed by full intra-party elections,” added Singhvi.