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Countdown to elect new Cong chief begins, party says will stick to schedule

As the countdown began for the election of Congress president, the party's election authority on Sunday said it would stick to the schedule of electing a new chief by September 20

Congress forms screening committee for West Bengal elections

Press Trust of India New Delhi
As the countdown began for the election of Congress president, the party's election authority on Sunday said it would stick to the schedule of electing a new chief by September 20.
Chairman of the party's Central Election Authority Madhusudan Mistry said it was up to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to approve the final date for the election, which could be any day between August 21 to September 20.
However, sections in the party did not rule out delay in the internal poll process, considering the reluctance of Rahul Gandhi in contesting for the top post, lack of a 'Plan B' and the current focus of the Congress on organising 'Bharat Jodo yatra' next month.
The CWC had decided that elections for block committees and one member each of the Pradesh Congress Committee will be held from April 16 to May 31; district committee chiefs and executive will be elected between June 1 and July 20, PCC chiefs and AICC members between July 21 and August 20 and AICC president between August 21 and September 20.
"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 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.
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.
However, some sections in the party did not rule out delay in the internal poll process owing to the reluctance of Rahul Gandhi to contest.
Leaders added that the focus of the party is also on 'Bharat Jodo yatra' which is to commence on September 7, with Rahul Gandhi expected to flag the event from Kanyakumari.
"With Rahul Gandhi disinterested in the top job and Bharat Jodo yatra dates and preparation schedules clashing with the previously approved plan for the election of Congress president, it remains to be seen whether internal polls will be held in time," said a senior party leader.
A meeting of the Bharat Jodo planning was also held on Sunday for its planning.
Sonia Gandhi and the party have been saying that the Congress would have its new president by September 20.
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 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.
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 seemed "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 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 October 16, 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.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Aug 21 2022 | 7:33 PM IST

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