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Amid leadership row, Congress faces Assembly polls

KC Venugopal. File.   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

A day after the stormy meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), party leaders on Saturday conveyed a sense of urgency with regard to poll bound States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

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While former party chief Rahul Gandhi embarked on a three-day tour of poll-bound Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who had taken on the group of 23 dissenters (G-23) during Friday's CWC meet, was in Thiruvananthapuram to oversee the first meeting of Kerala's election management committee.

Referring to the series of meetings in Kerala, AICC general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal tweeted, “We all resolved to put up a united front in the coming election”.

The task looks more difficult when it comes to party's central leadership, given the sharp divisions between the G-23 and loyalists of the Gandhi family now.

By pushing the presidential election until June, loyalists of the Gandhi family have bought time to convince former party chief Rahul Gandhi to once again take over the reins.

Their calculation is that if the party does well in Puducherry, and Tamil Nadu as part of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led alliance, and wrests Kerala from the Left Democratic Front (LDF) since the State has a history of electing rival political formation, Mr Gandhi can be convinced to return as party chief.

Mr Gandhi, however, steadfastly avoided speaking about the issue even when party leaders asked him to reconsider his resignation.

On December 19, when party president Sonia Gandhi hosted key members of G-23 for a luncheon meeting, not only loyalists like Mr. Gehlot, Ambika Soni, Harish Rawat and Ajay Maken requested him to take over, even former Maharashtra Chief Minister and a key G-23 member, Prithviraj Chavan, acknowledged that Rahul Gandhi is the “most known face” within the party ranks.

While the G-23 may shed their reservation about Mr. Gandhi coming back, it is clear that they don't want to leave decision-making the “sole prerogative” of the Gandhi family.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad's latest demand to have an elected Central Election Committee (CEC), the body that decides who get to contests an election on a party ticket, is part of their strategy to restore the Congress Parliamentary Board (CPB) for collective decision-making.

The party constitution allows 9 of the 18-member CEC — currently filled by all nominated members — to be from elected members of CWC and CPB.

“The letter writers have stuck to their guns and won’t back off. Timing is crucial as the party needs to be fighting fit well ahead of the 2024 to take on the BJP,” said a G-23 member who's not part of the CWC.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 6:31:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/amid-leadership-row-cong-faces-assembly-polls/article33645252.ece

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