Congress chief Sonia Gandhi took charge of the party in 2019 when Rahul Gandhi resigned following the Congress’ debacle in that year’s national elections.(HT File Photo)
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi took charge of the party in 2019 when Rahul Gandhi resigned following the Congress’ debacle in that year’s national elections.(HT File Photo)

Sonia to remain Congress chief as party defers polls amid pandemic

G23 members do not oppose party decision to keep Sonia as the chief; CWC lashes out at Modi government over handling of Covid pandemic.
By Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2021 02:32 AM IST

Sonia Gandhi will remain the Congress president for at least another three months with the party’s Working Committee on Monday, deciding against holding organisational polls by June due to the surging second wave of the Covid19 pandemic, a move that was accepted unanimously.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot was the first to demand that the polls be deferred. Then, Congress general secretaries Randeep Surjewala and KC Venugopal said that restrictions on physical gathering and movement meant that it made sense to defer the polls for two to three months.

The move was not opposed by any of the members of the so-called G23 present at the meeting, people present at the meeting said. This is a group of Congress leaders that wrote to Sonia Gandhi in August, 2020, seeking a change in how the party works, and organisational elections. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik, signatories to that letter were present at the meeting and supported the decision to defer the polls.

Also read | Cong to form state-level panels to analyse assembly poll results

Gandhi took charge of the party in 2019 when Rahul Gandhi resigned following the Congress’ debacle in that year’s national elections. Since then, both she, as well as several of Rahul Gandhi’s loyalists have pushed for his return to the post -- but Rahul Gandhi himself appears reluctant to do so. To be sure, members of the G-23 have so far not talked about possible candidates for the polls.

CWC also lashed out at the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the pandemic and said “the inhumane crisis of non-availability of oxygen, hospital beds, Remdesivir, Ivermectin , Tocilizumab, and vaccines reflects the criminal failure of the central government.”

It termed the second wave “a direct consequence of the Modi government’s indifference, insensitivity and incompetence.” It also dubbed the Centre’s vaccination pricing policy as “opaque and discriminatory” and claimed that “the mandatory online registration without a walk-in option will exclude — and may have already excluded —millions of our citizens, particularly those in rural areas and those belonging to the weaker sections of society.”

Watch | After poll debacle, Congress postpones internal President election citing Covid

In the meeting, Gandhi asked the CWC to deliberate on the internal polls. Madhusudan Mistry, chairman of the Congress Election Authority proposed that the polls could be held in the last week of June but nearly all leaders felt it would be impossible to do this till Covid subsides.

After the Congress chief ministers spoke about the situation in their states, the CWC passed a resolution saying, the Covid19 second wave is “nothing short of a grave calamity” and the direct result of the central government’s “willful disregard of scientific advice, its premature declaration of victory over the pandemic and its unwillingness and inability to plan in advance.”

The party said that while vaccine supplies are grossly insufficient, the Centre has “passed on the financial responsibility for vaccinating the 18-44 year population to the State governments, which are already facing severe financial stress.”

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