New Delhi: The Congress Working Committee on Saturday decided that the elections to the post of Congress president will be held in September next year, sources said.
During a nearly five-hour-long meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which is the party’s highest decision-making body, various leaders, including chief ministers Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan, Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh and Charanjit Singh Channi of Punjab urged Rahul Gandhi to take over as the president.
Rahul Gandhi, in turn, thanked all the leaders for reposing faith in him and said he would apply his mind on their request, the sources said.
The CWC has decided that the elections to the post of Congress president will be held in September next year, a CWC member told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
Three resolutions, including one on the political situation of the country, have also been passed by the CWC, the leader said.
Interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former party chief Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the three Congress chief ministers, among others, attended the meeting, the first such physical meet of the CWC since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
G-23 leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma were among those present at the meeting at the All India Congress Committee headquarters here.
In her opening remarks at the CWC meeting, interim chief Sonia Gandhi said she is a full-time and hands-on party president and there is no need for leaders to speak to her through the media.
Her remarks came days after Kapil Sibal, one of the leaders of the group of 23 who had written to Sonia Gandhi for organisational overhaul last year, demanded that an immediate meeting of the CWC be convened and wondered who in the party was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president.
In her opening remarks at the CWC meeting, Sonia Gandhi asserted that every member of the party wants a revival of the Congress, but that requires unity and keeping the party’s interest paramount.
“Above all, it requires self-control and discipline,” she added.
Recalling that the Congress had finalised a roadmap for electing a regular Congress chief by June 30 but that deadline was extended indefinitely due to Covid second wave, Sonia Gandhi said today was the occasion for bringing clarity once and for all on the issue of the organisational polls.
A schedule for full-fledged organisational elections has been put before the CWC members, she said.
The meeting of the CWC was convened after demands from some quarters to discuss important issues, including some defections in the recent past.
The meeting also came amid rumblings within the Congress’ units such as in Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, states where the party is in power.
“I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands-on Congress president,” Sonia Gandhi said, which is seen by many as a response to Sibal’s comments last month.
Sonia Gandhi also asserted that she has always appreciated frankness and there was no need to speak to her through the media.
“So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC,” she said.
The G-23 leaders had been demanding that a CWC meeting be convened, with Sibal last month wondering who in the party was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president. He has asserted that the G23 leaders’ grouping is “not a Jee Huzur 23”.
Former leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Azad had also written to Sonia Gandhi to convene a meeting of the CWC at the earliest.
The Congress in its CWC meeting held on January 22 had decided it would have an elected president by June 2021. But it was deferred at the May 10 CWC meet because of the COVID-19 situation.
The latest meeting is being held in the wake of the Lakhimpur Kheri violence on October 3 in which eight people lost their lives. The dead included four farmers who were allegedly run over by an SUV belonging to the convoy of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra.
Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, who has been named in an FIR, was arrested on Saturday by the Uttar Pradesh Police in connection with the mowing down of the four farmers. The incident has given enough ammunition to the Congress party to corner the BJP government and recapture the lost political space.
Issues such as price rise, farmers’ protests and the economic situation of the country were also deliberated upon at the meeting.
Sonia Gandhi took over as the interim Congress president in August 2019 after Rahul Gandhi resigned in the wake of the party’s Lok Sabha debacle in May 2019.
There have been demands from a section of Congress leaders for having a full-time and active party president as well as an organisational overhaul.
The demand became intense after a storm in the party in August last year over a letter to Sonia Gandhi by the group of 23 leaders, including Azad, Sharma, Bhupinder Hooda, Prithviraj Chavan, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Mukul Wasnik, raising these issues.