Finally, it’s Rahul
After prolonged speculation about elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the party chief, the Congress on Monday cleared the decks for him to take up the reins from his mother Sonia Gandhi. Party sources said Rahul is likely to be the sole candidate in the organisational poll and is “deemed to be the next party chief” on December 5, a few days before the Gujarat Assembly polls.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) approved the schedule for party president’s election. The process will start on December 1 when candidates will file nomination for the election. The last date for filing nomination is December 4. Following scrutiny of nominations on December 5, the list of valid candidatures will be put out on the same day by 3:30 pm. The last date of withdrawal of nomination is December 11, and polling will be held on December 16 if more than one candidate is in the fray. Counting of votes and declaration of results will take place on December 19,
The Election Commission has given the party the last extension for completing the internal poll process by the end of this year.
Sonia has been the president of the grand old party for a record 19 years since 1998, when she replaced Sitaram Kesri.
The party had delayed the announcement of Rahul’s elevation time and again amid reported tussle between the old guard and the young brigade. Rahul’s reluctance to lead the party from the front was also seen as a reason for the delay in his coronation.
His repeated vacations came under scrutiny of media and the political parties like BJP terming him a “part-time politician”. One of the major instances of him missing from the political scenario was just after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls when he vanished for two-weeks leaving Sonia to confront the blame for the poll debacle. The Congress also suffered successive Assembly poll defeats when Rahul led the campaigns.
Rahul made his electoral debut in 2004 Lok Sabha election from Amethi, the family’s traditional constituency earlier represented by his uncle Sanjay Gandhi, his father Rajiv, and mother Sonia. His maiden speech in January 2014 as Congress vice-president at the party’s plenary session was received well by youth party workers when he spoke of change and increasing common man’s participation in politics.
Rahul worked for three years with a consulting firm in London between June 1996 and early March 1999 after completing his education at Trinity College. He came back to India to help his mother Sonia with the 1999 general election campaign but then disappeared from the political firmament after the polls, and returned only in 2002.
Briefing reporters after the CWC meeting, party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, “Sonia Gandhi is our leader and mentor. She has always guided the Congress party... Her able leadership and guidance will always be available, not only to
Rahulji, but also to crores and crores of Congressmen and women always.”
Replying to a question on the role of Sonia after the election, Surjewala said, “Let the election process be concluded and I will be very happy to answer that question.”
Mullapally Ramachandran, the chairman of the Congress’ central election authority, said after the meeting of the CWC.
Those eligible to vote are Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates who have already been elected by their respective State units.
Once the president is named, he or she will choose a new CWC team comprising vice-president, general secretaries and treasurer among other office-bearers.
According to party sources, Rahul Gandhi told the meeting that every Congress worker should “aim for the bull’s eye” in the upcoming election in Gujarat, where the party is locked in a bitter contest with the BJP after being out of power for 22 years. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party general secretaries also attended the CWC meeting.
CWC meeting, which is the party’s highest decision making body, started with the members passing a resolution condoling the demise of CWC member M L Fotedar, who was former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s personal secretary. Fotedar died in September this year. After the meeting, the CWC also condoled the death of its veteran leader and former Union Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi.
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