The young Turks, some Congress leaders said, may yet again demand that the CWC pick Rahul Gandhi as the next party chief .
The young Turks, some Congress leaders said, may yet again demand that the CWC pick Rahul Gandhi as the next party chief .

Internal elections, upcoming assembly polls in focus as Cong Working Committee meets today

The meeting is being closely watched both by the old guard, including the 23 signatories to a August letter to party president Sonia Gandhi seeking sweeping changes in the Congress’ functioning, as well as the young Turks, mainly leaders allied with former party president Rahul Gandhi.
By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 04:00 AM IST

The Congress Working Committee meeting on Friday might consider the upcoming assembly elections in four states and the time required for the party’s central election authority (CEA) to prepare the ground for internal elections, before drawing up a schedule for the latter, which could see the election of a new president.

The meeting is being closely watched both by the old guard, including the 23 signatories to a August letter to party president Sonia Gandhi seeking sweeping changes in the Congress’ functioning, as well as the young Turks, mainly leaders allied with former party president Rahul Gandhi.

The signatories said they are waiting to see how the meeting tries to address the issues they raised. “We also want the Bihar election results taken up for discussion in the CWC,” said one of the letter writers. The Congress fared poorly in the election, winning 19 of the 70 seats it contested.

The young Turks, some Congress leaders said, may yet again demand that the CWC pick Rahul Gandhi as the next party chief . CWC, the highest executive body of the Congress, can appoint a provisional President pending the election of a regular President by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) .

Gandhi himself has given no indication so far that he wants to return to the post he quit after the party’s dismal showing in the 2019 Lok Saha elections. “We asked him several times in the past few months but he hasn’t even given a hint of interest,” added this person who asked not to be named.

If it takes up the issue of organizational elections to the post of the party chief, CWC will also take a call on whether a full-fledged session of the AICC plenary needs to be called or voting can be held at the level of state units.

Four states—Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam—and the UT of Puducherry will face assembly elections in April-May this year. At least two CWC members said that the party needs to complete its internal polls by February as this will give enough time for the new team to prepare for the polls. The Congress is out of power in all four states.

Subject to the endorsement of CWC, the elections could be slated for February. For its part, CEA has sought a 25-day time-frame for organizing the polls. A key decision to be taken relates to convening the AICC session or organizing the voting at the level of state units. The latter option is doable as the delegates’ list collated and cross-checked by CEA is broadly on the lines of names received from the Pradesh Congress Committees.

The Central Election Authority set up last year by interim president Sonia Gandhi for the purpose of holding organizational polls has completed the task of drawing up the list of AICC delegates who form the electoral-college for the party chief’s election. The poll panel’s recommendations, together with the list of delegates, are understood to have been forwarded to KC Venugopal, AICC general secretary in charge of organisation. They are likely to come up for discussion at Friday’s meeting.

A senior leader said on condition of anonymity that Venugopal and Ambika Soni have also been in contact with Rajya Sabha Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the 23 signatories.

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