Poll schedule to elect new Cong chief gets underway

NEW DELHI, 21 Aug: The process for the election of Congress president got underway on Sunday, with the party’s election authority saying it will stick to the schedule of electing a new chief by 20 September.

Chairman of the party’s central election authority, Madhusudan Mistry told PTI that it is up to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to approve the final date for the election of the Congress chief, which could be any day between 21 August and 20 September.

The CWC had decided that elections for block committees and one member each of the Pradesh Congress Committee will be held from 16 April to 31 May, 2022; district committee chiefs and executive will be elected between 1 June and 20 July, PCC chiefs and AICC members between 21 July and 20 August, 2022, and AICC president between 21 August 21 and 20 September.

“We will stick to the schedule. We have already forwarded the election schedule to the party leadership and are awaiting a nod from the CWC, which will fix the final dates for the Congress president’s election,” Mistry told PTI.

Asked if organisational elections at the level of block, district and pradesh Congress committees have concluded, he said the process has been duly completed.

However, Mistry said that the election authority is in the process of finalising the AICC delegates who will vote in the crucial election for the top party post.

“The exact date will be finalised by the working committee,” he said, adding that a meeting of the party’s top decision-making body will be held soon.

Sonia Gandhi and the party have been saying that the Congress would have its new president by 20 September.

It is, meanwhile, learnt that the G-23 is keeping a close watch at the election process and its transparency.

The grouping comprising prominent veterans including former leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and his deputy Anand Sharma, besides Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Manish Tewari, has been insisting on genuine elections right from the block up to the CWC level.

Even as Mistry insisted that the election authority would stick to the poll schedule, the party appeared in the dark on potential candidates for the key race, with former chief Rahul Gandhi continuing to display his unwillingness to contest.

Attempts to reach senior leaders to gauge the mood of the party as the internal elections rolled went in vain with most leaders saying they were unaware of the plan.

As of today, there is no clarity on whether Rahul Gandhi will agree to run for the Congress president’s post, with large sections of the party noting that he seems “disinterested.”

Whether that will change will perhaps determine the exact schedule for the Congress president’s election, considering the majority of party leaders want Rahul Gandhi to don the mantle, even as he continues to evade the responsibility.

In May 2019, Sonia Gandhi had agreed to become interim president of the party after Rahul Gandhi resigned following the Congress’ loss in general elections.

Even at that time, an extensive CWC consultation had favoured Rahul Gandhi to continue and urged him to do so. After he declined, the party’s highest decision-making body requested Sonia Gandhi to step in.

For several months after May 2019, there was complete silence within the Congress circles on the election of a full-time party chief until late July 2020 when G-23 leaders in a letter to Sonia Gandhi sought urgent elections across all levels of the party to revive its sagging electoral fortunes.

Subsequently on 16 October, 2021, the CWC approved a tentative schedule for the internal elections, culminating in the poll for the highest position in the party – that of the Congress president.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no formal discussion in the Congress on a non-Gandhi to succeed Sonia Gandhi, with some leaders saying that the incumbent chief might well stay on the top post if this situation of fluidity continues. (PTI)