Ruling out immediate elections in the party, Congress Working Committee on Saturday announced the schedule for organisational polls with a new president to be in place only by September 20 next year even as a chorus once again reverberated in favour of Rahul Gandhi at the helm with even the G-23 leaders raising hands in support.
Rahul told the meeting that he would “certainly consider” returning as Congress president and thanked them for their faith in him, sources said. This is the first time in recent times the former party president has indicated his willingness to assume the hot seat once again even as Sonia Gandhi will continue in the post till the election of a new president.
The “unanimous” decisions on the organisational poll schedule, agitation programme against price rise between November 14 and 29 and a training programme for party leaders and workers and endorsement of Rahul appeared to have stamped the authority of the central leadership.
Sonia set the tone for the meeting with a terse, "I am, if you allow me to say so, a full time and hands-on Congress president and there is no need to speak to me through the media", sending clear signals to the G-23 leaders who were rebelling against Rahul and seeking immediate appointment of a full-time president in place of an “interim” chief.
At the meeting, sources said senior leader A K Antony was the first to demand that Rahul should take the mantle, as it was not just his or Congress' demand but the "need of the country".
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot fully endorsed him, while Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi turned emotional saying it was because of Rahul's insistence a Dalit like him could be chosen as Chief Minister.
G-23 leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik also spoke at the meeting but did not oppose the plans for organisational elections next year. Sources said Azad spoke about the necessity of winning polls, while Sharma emphasised that they were not against the Gandhis.
At least three CWC members said Rahul spoke on “ideology” at length and pointed out that only Congress could fight "communal politics". He told the meeting that only Congress could make a Dalit the Chief Minister.
In the first physical meeting held in 18 months after the Covid-19 pandemic, the Congress decided to initiate the organisation election process with a massive membership drive between November 1 this year and ending March 31 next year.
The primary list of eligible members will be published on April 15 and the elections to the booth and block committees will be held between April 16 and May 31. The district committees will be held between June 1 and July 22, while the pradesh (state) committee elections will be held between July 21 and August 20.
"The elections for the Congress president will be held between August 21 and September 20, while the dates for the elections to Congress Working Committee will be decided at the Plenary. "Tentatively, the elections to the CWC will be held in October," Congress General Secretary K C Venugopal told a press conference. All the decisions were taken "unanimously" and there was no difference of opinion, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
It also decided to hold an elaborate training programme for party leaders and workers to equip them on party ideology and policy, expectation from party workers, election management and countering propaganda among others. A Jan Jagran Abhiyan against price rise will be held between November 14 and November 29.
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