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Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as Congress president likely on December 11

Rahul Gandhi’s election as Congress president will herald a new era in the party but he is faced with the huge task of reviving the Congress to make it fighting fit for the 2019 general elections

india Updated: Dec 05, 2017 21:34 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Congress president,Congress elections
Rahul Gandhi (left) with former prime minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders after filing his nomination papers for the post of party president, at the AICC office in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

A formal announcement elevating Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president is likely on December 11 after the nomination papers for elections to the party’s top post are scrutinised on Tuesday.

The 47-year-old leader’s elevation to the top post in the 131-year-old party is a foregone conclusion as Rahul Gandhi was the only person who had filed papers by the end of the final day of filing of nominations on Monday.

Rahul’s election will herald a new era in the party but he is faced with the daunting task of reviving and rebuilding the Congress to make it fighting fit for the 2019 general elections. A good show in the Gujarat assembly polls this month, where he is leading the party campaign, will give a good start to his new innings.

The party’s central election authority, which oversees organisational polls, received 89 sets of nomination papers for Rahul Gandhi, including from proposers such as his mother Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress Working Committee members.

The last day of withdrawal of nominations is on December 11 and a function has been planned at the Congress headquarters in Delhi.

This will mark the end of the organisational polls in the Congress, which had to complete the entire process by December 31 as per the deadline set by the Election Commission.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, is also expected to be reconstituted soon.

According to the Congress constitution, the president enjoys a three-year term starting from his/her appointment during the session. During the interim period of election and formal appointment at the plenary, the person acts as the president-elect.

Rahul Gandhi will be the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the post.

The 70-year-old Sonia holds the record of being the Congress chief for more than 19 consecutive years after taking over from Sitaram Kesri in March 1998.

During her entire tenure, Sonia had to face contest only once when she defeated Jitendra Prasada – who had served as political advisor to former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao – in a one-sided contest on November 9, 2000.

The last organisational elections in the Congress were held in 2010 when Sonia was elected party president for the fourth term.

Rahul Gandhi’s presidency is expected to mark a generational shift in the party that is struggling with a series of electoral setbacks, including its worst drubbing when it won just 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls after 10 years in power.

The Congress’s fortunes hinge on its revival in the states. After Gujarat, his next challenges will be to retain Karnataka and dethrone the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan before the 2019 parliamentary elections.

Gandhi tried to open the party in almost five years as vice president to end heirloom politics, but didn’t make much headway.

Congress leaders suggest he might now go for an overhaul, while striking a balance between young leaders and the old guard, which had reservations about his style of functioning in the past.

The parliamentarian for Amethi has long had the reputation of being a reluctant leader, though analysts say he has displayed greater political acumen since the 2014 election defeat.

Mother Sonia Gandhi enjoys a good rapport with opposition parties. Her son’s ability to stitch alliances to prevent opposition votes from going to the BJP is likely to test his political wisdom.

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 13:47 IST