At key CWC meet today, membership drive to get a boost

CWC Saturday meet to announce membership drive, delay organisation elections

The meeting is expected to discuss organisational issues including the trouble in party-ruled states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Chhattisgarh

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Credit: PTI Photo

The meeting of Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Saturday will finalise a time table for the organisational elections but immediate changes in leadership as demanded by a section is unlikely as the party is planning a mega membership drive that could take months.

Sources said the CWC will give final touches to the membership drive from booth level ahead of organisational elections and this exercise is likely to take 7-8 months, virtually ruling out an immediate replacement for Sonia Gandhi, who took over as interim party president after Rahul Gandhi had quit following the Lok Sabha debacle.

The leadership is also said to have factored in the upcoming Assembly elections early next year before deciding on the schedule, as conducting polls would divide the party's attention at a time it is planning an improved show in five states - Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh. It is to be seen how the change seekers or G-23 leaders respond if a full-time president is not appointed and organisational elections are further delayed.

DH had on October 9 reported that a section in the party felt that only one year is left for the new party president and the party could wait. However, the other side led by change seekers or G-23 is of the view that there should be clarity and direction in the party's action and a definite decision on leadership should be taken.

Rahul Gandhi was elected president in 2017 and had resigned after the Lok Sabha poll debacle following which Sonia was chosen as interim president. The tenure of Congress party president is five years and if a leader is chosen now, the argument is that he or she will have only a year and in such a scenario, one could wait till then. 

While Sonia is likely to continue, it was earlier speculated that Kamal Nath or Sachin Pilot may be appointed as party president as an interim measure.

Saturday's meeting, which is called to "discuss current political situation, forthcoming assembly elections and organisational elections", will be the first physical meeting after Covid-19 struck the country.

The meeting is expected to discuss organisational issues, including the trouble in party-ruled states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Chhattisgarh. On the positive, the central leadership appeared to have brought some peace in the Punjab unit where its president Navjot Singh Sidhu had put the party in trouble by playing the rebel.

On Thursday evening, Sidhu held a meeting with Congress General Secretaries Harish Rawat (Punjab in-charge) and K C Venugopal (Organisation) during which he said he would abide by any decision of the Gandhis. Though there is no official word, sources said, it has been decided that Sidhu will continue as Punjab president.

The CWC meeting also comes after senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad wrote to Sonia seeking an immediate meeting of the CWC to discuss the crisis in the party. A number of G-23 leaders are unhappy with the leadership in the manner in which Amarinder Singh was ousted as Punjab Chief Minister following a campaign by Sidhu, which has the support of Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi.

Another concern will be Chhattisgarh where a section led by T S Singh Deo has been raising the demand for removing Bhupesh Baghel as per a perceived formula of sharing Chief Ministership. Baghel has also been appointed as senior party observer for UP Assembly polls. The leadership tussle in Rajasthan would also come up for discussion during the meeting.

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