Cong readies to elect next party chief in virtual polls

| | New Delhi
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Cong readies to elect next party chief in virtual polls

Monday, 28 December 2020 | PNS | New Delhi

Cong readies to elect next party chief in virtual polls

The Congress is in advance stage of updating the list of party delegates and preparing the schedule to elect its next chief in a digital AICC meeting via the electoral college process in January-February 2021.

“CEA is drawing up a voters’ list of around 1,500 AICC delegates and is planning to hold digital elections, marking a first — with the term of the presidency to be only for two years,” AICC sources said.

The five-member CEA is headed by Madhusudan Mistry and its members are Rajesh Mishra, Krishna Byre Gowda, S Jothimani and Arvinder Singh Lovely. Lovely is one of the 23 signatories to a letter written to Sonia Gandhi in August this year seeking complete overhaul of the party and a full-time leadership to stem the steady decline of the 135-year-old organisation.

The party is likely to announce the schedule for the internal polls in the first week of January. Sources in CEA said the panel was to announce the schedule by December-end but got delayed as efforts to build consensus on the presidential candidate are still on.

A senior AICC functionary said the delay could be because of the former party chief Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Italy beginning Sunday for about a week.

“We will meet in the first week of January and finalise the schedule,” said CEA sources, adding after that the party’s highest decision making body, Congress Working Committee (CWC), will meet to clear the name of the chief post.

At a meeting convened by Sonia early this month with dissenters and other senior leaders there was a renewed call for Rahul to return as the party chief. While Rahul said it would not be appropriate to interfere in the ongoing internal election process, the dissenters are firm that they will not accept a “proxy” candidate and insisted that polls should be held at all levels, including the CWC.

As per the Congress constitution, 12 of the 25 CWC members have to be elected by All India Congress Committee (AICC) delegates and the rest are appointed by the party president. The CWC has not witnessed any election in over two decades now. The last time there was an election to the CWC was in 1997 during the Kolkata plenary. Prior to that, the CWC polls took place in 1992 at the Tirupati session.

A CEA member quoted explained the panel is expected to wind up the organisational polls by February-end as per the deadline to inform the Election Commission of the completion of the process.

He said that in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CEA has decided to restrict the electoral college to AICC members only. “We will not include the co-opted members this time. So, the electoral college will have around 800 members only,” he added.

The CEA member said that the digital IDs of the AICC members are almost ready to enable the panel to hold a virtual session in case it is difficult to have the physical presence for such a convention due to Covid-19.

Moreover, according to sources, hectic parleys have begun for a possible takeover of the UPA by NCP supremo Sharad Pawar as chairperson in place of Sonia Gandhi. Shiv Sena which is part of Congress NCP alliance Government in Maharashtra too has backed Sharad Pawar’s candidacy for UPA chairperson.

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