Congress announces organisational poll

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi during the Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi on October 16, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

In a clear message to the dissident-reformists or the group of 23 (G-23) Congress leaders, who had sought internal reforms, party president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday told the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that she was a full-time, hands-on president and there was no need for colleagues to speak to her through the media.

After nearly five-hour meeting, the CWC also announced an elaborate election schedule for organisational polls, according to which a new party president would be elected between August 21 and September 20 next year and thereafter, elections to the CWC would be held by October at the All India Congress Committee Plenary.


Amid a chorus from party colleagues to take back the reins of the Congress again, Rahul Gandhi, for the first time after he quit in May 2019, said he “will consider it”. But he also pointed out that that Congress should have clarity of thought and decide where it stands on the question of ideology.

Mr. Gandhi then cited the example of the 2015 Dadri lynching incident and said he had wanted to visit the family of Akhlaq, the Muslim man who was lynched by a mob but was prevented as some in the party had reservations. Similar sentiments were expressed when he visited Hathras to meet the family of Dalit girl who was raped and murdered last year, he said.

Mr. Gandhi is learnt to have said that when rights of the poor and marginalised sections are “under attack” from the Narendra Modi government, the Congress should be able to defend them and not be concerned about “whose leadership is acceptable”.


Party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was among a host of leaders who asked Mr. Gandhi “to lead the action”.

But it was Ms. Gandhi’s opening remarks that set the tone for the marathon meeting of the CWC, the first physical meeting after a gap of 18 months because of the pandemic.

Her assertion of being a hands-on president was a direct rebuttal of senior leader Kapil Sibal’s remarks that “in our party, at the moment, there is no president”. The entire organisation wanted its revival, but it required “unity, discipline, self- control and keeping party’s interest paramount,” Ms. Gandhi stated.

“I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands on Congress president,” Ms. Gandhi observed. In the past two years, a large number of young colleagues have taken leadership roles in taking party policies and programmes to the people, she asserted.


“I have always appreciated frankness. There is no need to speak to me 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 noted.

Be it the farmers’ agitation, relief provision during the pandemic, issues concerning youth and women, atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis and minorities, price rise, and the destruction of the public sector, the Congress chief pointed out the party had never shied away from raising issues of public importance and co-ordinating with like-minded parties on these issues.

Ms. Gandhi stated that she was “acutely conscious” of the fact that she has been interim Congress President ever since the CWC asked her to return in this capacity in 2019 as the second wave of COVID overtook the country and this deadline was extended indefinitely. “Today is the occasion for bringing clarity once and for all,”she said.

Responding to her, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, both members of the G-23, said there has never been any doubt over her leadership and that they were among the leaders who had requested her to take charge after Mr. Gandhi stepped down.

While Mr Azad raised the issue of Mr Sibal's house coming under attack, sources said Mr Sharma had raised the issue of people leaving the Congress and the need to have a dialogue with them.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, however, asserted those who can't take struggle and wish to leave the party can do so.

Without naming the G-23, Jitender Singh, Ajay Maken and Randeep Surjewala were among the leaders who attacked them by pointing that there were seniors who were constantly questioning the party’s decisions and leadership at public forums.

Another CWC member, Tariq Hameed Karra, said the leadership of the Gandhi family was essential for “saving democracy” in the country.

The leaders who requested Mr. Gandhi to take over the reins of the party included A.K. Antony, Ambika Sonia, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi, Chhatisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and AICC general secretary Harish Rawat.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Gandhi also spoke about the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, the farmers’ agitation, inflation, foreign policy and the continuing border stand-off with China, targeted killing in Jammu and Kashmir and the disinvestment process.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 2:14:40 AM |

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