CWC endorses schedule; Congress to elect its president on October 17

Gehlot remains front runner; Anand Sharma questions sanctity of electoral rolls

Updated - August 29, 2022 10:51 am IST

Published - August 28, 2022 04:13 pm IST - New Delhi

K.C. Venugopal, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ajay Maken, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and other members attend a Congress Working Committee meeting at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on August 28, 2022.

K.C. Venugopal, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ajay Maken, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khurshid, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and other members attend a Congress Working Committee meeting at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi on August 28, 2022. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

 The Congress will hold the election to the post of its president on October 17, the party announced here on Sunday after the election schedule was endorsed by the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

This was the first meeting of the CWC after the exit of the party’s longest-serving general secretary, Ghulam Nabi Azad. But in the brief virtual meeting, none of the members raised his exit or expressed solidarity with the Gandhi family, which was at the centre of Mr. Azad’s attack in his resignation letter. There were also no fresh appeals from CWC members to Mr. Gandhi to return as party president.

Gandhis quiet

Chairing the meeting, Ms. Gandhi said it was only to discuss the schedule and no other issue would be taken up. Mr. Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were seen on one screen, but did not speak during the brief meeting. The entire CWC, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, attended the meeting that lasted for less than 30 minutes.

The president’s post has been with the Gandhi family for over two decades now. As reported by The Hindu, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is the front runner for the post, after the Gandhi family’s decision not to contest. The election process will begin on September 24 and culminate on October 17, where in case of a contest, votes will be cast. The electoral college has over 9,000 delegates.

Also Read | Family matters: On the Congress and the Gandhis

During the meeting, according to sources, senior party leader Anand Sharma, who is one of the prominent members of G-23 group, questioned the sanctity of the electoral rolls. He said he had received many complaints from colleagues from different States that they were in the dark about the meetings of primary members at the block- and district-committee levels who elected the delegates for the elections.

Delegate list

He said the list of delegates should be published and pasted at the block, district and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) offices. When Ms. Gandhi asked the chairman of the Central Election Authority (CEA), Madhusudan Mistry, to clarify, he said that these lists had been verified, sources said. The list would be made available to the PCCs and to any candidate who wishes to contest, he added.

At the press conference held after the CWC meeting, when reporters raised questions about Mr. Sharma’s intervention, party’s general secretary (communication) Jairam Ramesh asserted that no questions were asked.

Also Read | We will force Rahul Gandhi to become Congress chief, says Mallikarjun Kharge

But Mr. Mistry said, “Those who have raised this question have gone through this very process. So I don’t want to comment on it.”

Later, in a tweet, Mr. Ramesh again insisted that no questions were raised on the electoral process. “There is some dubious ‘source-based’ plantation going on that questions were raised in CWC meeting today on the Congress President’s election process and schedule. This is to make absolutely clear that nobody raised any question or any doubt.”

However, when asked about his comments during the CWC meet, Mr. Sharma confirmed the exchange to The Hindu.

Sources also said that this CWC meeting could be Ms. Gandhi’s very last one and to avoid any embarrassing or awkward exchanges, it was decided at an informal meeting of a few CWC members to omit any references to Mr. Azad or make fresh appeals for Mr. Gandhi’s return.

The party, however, is cautious of not conceding the space in Jammu and Kashmir where Mr. Azad after his exit from Congress is widely expected to start his own party.

On Monday, party’s Jammu and Kashmir in-charge Rajni Patil will be visiting the UT and holding a series of meetings with the leaders.

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