The Congress Working Committee on Monday approved the road map for what looks like an unopposed elevation of its Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, as party President, barring an unexpected contest, enabling the passing of the mantle from his mother, who was at the helm for 19 years.
It would be clear on December 11 whether there would be a contest for the top party post. The last date for filing nominations has been set as December 4, and scrutiny will be done on December 5, Mullapally Ramachandran, Chairman of the Central Election Authority said after a CWC meeting that cleared the schedule.
The last date for withdrawing nominations is December 11 and the date of poll, “if necessary”, would be December 16. Counting of votes will be done on December 19.
In finalising the poll schedule, the top policy making body of the Congress has kept the option open for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation–either before or after the outcome of the Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh that will be out on Decembe 18.
Asked about whether Sonia has appealed to party leaders to actively participate in the the poll process because on earlier occasions whoever had chosen to contest had his career finished, chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said the Congress has had a history of contests.
“Congress is the only party which protects democracy in the country and within the party. This has been going on since Mahatma Gandhi’s time. Even Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had fought against a candidate fielded by Gandhiji. But their affection for each other had never come down.”
Party sources pointed out that two senior leaders Jitendra Prasada and Rajesh Pilot had contested against Sonia Gandhi and Sitaram Kesri respectively. But the party still gave them respect and positions, he said adding their sons were ministers in Manmohan Singh’s government.
47-year-old Rahul Gandhi’s elevation will come more than three years after Congress was battered in the 2014 elections when it sunk to an all time low of 44 seats in the Lok Sabha. Ever since it has been struggling to revive itself and by and large it has tasted defeat in the successive Assembly barring in Punjab earlier this year and along with JD(U) and RJD in Bihar in 2015. The JDU-RJD-Congress alliance has since come apart after JD(U) broke ranks and tied up with BJP once again to continue in power.
Sonia, who is all set to hand over the baton to her son, has been keeping indifferent health in the last few years and has not been actively participating in party affairs as well as in the current round of election campaign.
The longest-serving President, Sonia became President in 1998. She had taken the primary membership in 1997.
In the face of poll debacles after 2014, Rahul has been seeking to revive the party organisation and workers’ morale. He has been very critical of the Modi government on its economic polices, especially demonetisation and the “hasty” implementation of the GST. In recent weeks, a debate has begun over his “new avatar” marked by a rise in popularity and his followings on social media.
Rahul Gandhi, an MP from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, was named General Secretary of the Congress in charge of the youth and student organisations of the Party in 2007. In January 2013, he assumed office as Vice President of the party.