Election for Cong chief set to be held on Oct 17

Aug 29, 2022 03:24 AM IST

The meeting came two days after senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad quit the Congress, blaming the leadership for the party’s reducing footprint in the country

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Sunday announced that the election for the party’s president will be held on October 17, but not before prominent “G23” leader Anand Sharma questioned whether due process was being followed, people aware of the matter said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)

Sharma said that no meetings were held at the block or district levels to select delegates or voters for the election, a functionary said, asking not to be named.

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The meeting came two days after senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad quit the Congress, blaming the leadership for the party’s reducing footprint in the country. Azad was one of the 23 leaders, popularly called “G23”, who wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2020, seeking organisational reforms in the party.

On Sunday, the CWC decided that the polling for the much-awaited Congress president’s election would be scheduled on October 17 and the result will be declared on October 19. The move came amid speculations that the Gandhi family could step aside to make way for a non-Gandhi president of the party. The final schedule of the election was pushed back by nearly a month from the original plan.

If only one candidate is left in the fray after the withdrawal of nominations, the name of the president will be declared on October 8, the party’s Central Election Authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry said after the meeting of the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body.

The date of notification of the election is September 22 and candidates can file their nominations between September 24 and 30. The last date of withdrawal of application will be October 8.

In what was possibly the shortest CWC meet in the recent past, called to only approve the election dates, top “G23” leader Anand Sharma raised questions on whether due process was being followed in the Congress’s organisational election. Sharma, who recently resigned as the chairman of the party’s steering committee for Himachal Pradesh, said he received several complaints that no meetings were held to elect delegates for the party’s presidential poll, according a CWC member, who asked not to be named.

“Sharma questioned if meetings to elect delegates at block and district levels were held, as he got information that such meetings were irregular. He said that if this has happened, it violates the sanctity of the election and also alleged that many state units of the party have not received the delegates list,” the CWC member said.

The list of delegates is crucial for the Congress president election as they will vote in the election. If the list of delegates is skewed in favour of the party’s ruling establishment, a rival candidate could face an unfair contest, another functionary said.

As Sharma raised concern about the delegate list, Sonia Gandhi, who chaired the meeting virtually, asked Mistry to respond. Mistry maintained that if there is a contest, all candidates would be able to access the list of delegates, the functionary said.

Sonia Gandhi, who is travelling abroad for medical check-ups was flanked by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during the meeting.

At the press conference later, Mistry said that those who raised these questions have gone through the same process… so “that’s why I don’t want to comment much about that”.

The CWC meeting was held two days after party stalwart Azad resigned and criticised Rahul Gandhi for promoting his “coterie” and demolishing consultative mechanisms. While a section of the party was keen on raising issues flagged by Azad, a senior leader said that at the beginning of the meeting, all CWC members were told that only the poll schedule will be discussed.

A Congress leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did not say anything during the meeting. Rajya Sabha leader Pramod Tiwari was the first to welcome the schedule. The leader added that unlike the past meetings of the CWC, no one demanded that Rahul Gandhi be made the next president.

A host of leaders including KC Venugopal and Abhishek Singhvi wished Sonia Gandhi good health during the meeting.

“The Congress Working Committee met today under the chairpersonship of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It considered and approved the final schedule given by our CEA chairman Madhusudan Mistry. As per our procedure, CP election will be held in the state headquarters,” Venugopal said.

Another senior leader said that the poll schedule was passed in unanimity. “We were asked to raise our hands. Everyone supported the poll plan.”

“Date of Election (if needed): October 17th, 2022 (Monday) 10am to 4pm. Date of Counting and Declaration of Result (if needed): October 19th, 2022 (Wednesday) 10am onwards,” announced a Congress press release.

The party last saw an election for the post in November 2000. Sonia Gandhi is the longest-serving party president and has been at the helm since 1998, barring the two years between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi was in charge.

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