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No clarity in Congress as deadline nears for internal polls

india Updated: Oct 25, 2016 17:58 IST

As the one-year deadline to complete internal elections in the Congress gest closer, there is no clarity if the party will seek further extension of the cut-off date or go for organisational changes before December 31 this year.

The congress working committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, had on September 8 last year extended the date of completion of the organisational elections by one year.

With it, the term of Congress president Sonia Gandhi was also extended by a year.

The party had then informed the election commission of its decision. A political party is required to inform the poll body of the mode and periodicity of organisational elections at different levels.

Congress sources did not rule out the possibility of a CWC meeting next month to take a call on the organisational elections, which seem unlikely at this juncture in view of the upcoming assembly elections in five states and the fact that the leadership is busy campaigning. Apart from Uttar Pradesh, assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur in February-March next year.

A senior Congress functionary told HT that since party vice-president Rahul Gandhi is busy campaigning in the poll-bound states, there are little chances that the present arrangement will be disturbed. That means, Sonia Gandhi will get another extension.

She already holds the record of having served as the Congress president for 18 consecutive years after taking over the reins of the party from Sitaram Kesri in 1998. Sonia Gandhi was re-elected as the Congress president for a record fourth time in a row on September 3, 2010. At its December 2010 plenary in Delhi, the party had increased the term of its president from three to five years.

But in last year’s CWC meeting, the party proposed an amendment in its constitution to reduce the tenure of Congress president from five to three years.

The last elections to the CWC were held in 1997 when Sitaram Kesri was the party chief. However, a keen contest was witnessed for the post of the Congress president in 2000 when Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasada. That was the last time elections were held for any post in the party. Since then, all appointments are being made through nomination.

For his part, Rahul Gandhi has stressed the need to end this “nomination culture” and promised to hold regular elections at all levels – from the CWC to district and block committees. On many occasions, he had expressed concern over the increasing trend in the party to boost numbers through fake membership. In the past, there have been allegations that leaders manipulate figures by dubious methods to outsmart their rivals and influence the outcome as happened in Youth Congress elections.

The Congress also had to extend its nationwide membership drive 4-5 times since it was launched on October 16, 2014 in view of poor response.

On the other hand, the BJP claims to have enrolled 10.42 crore members across the country within a year after coming to power in May 2014, smashing the Chinese Communist Party’s world record of a membership of 6.48 crore.

For their part, Congress managers insist that the extension of Sonia Gandhi’s term does not necessarily mean that Rahul Gandhi will have to wait for another year to take over the reins of the party.

A senior Congress functionary said the decision on timing of the change of guard has to be taken by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. He further explained that the CWC resolution on Sonia’s extension is a technical requirement that will have no bearing on the timing of Rahul’s elevation to the top post in the party.

First Published: Oct 25, 2016 14:21 IST