Decks cleared for Rahul’s elevation as Congress chief

Party announces internal election process beginning December 1

Published - November 20, 2017 11:47 pm IST - NEW DELHI

 Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president and her son Rahul Gandhi talk to Karan Singh at the CWC meeting in New Delhi on Monday.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president and her son Rahul Gandhi talk to Karan Singh at the CWC meeting in New Delhi on Monday.

Virtually signalling the elevation of Rahul Gandhi to the post of Congress president, the party on Monday announced the schedule of its presidential elections in December.

Once elected around mid-December, as widely expected, Mr. Gandhi will replace his mother Sonia Gandhi and head the 132-year-old party that counts Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel as its past presidents.

Ms. Gandhi has held the position for a record 19 years.

Once he becomes Congress chief, Mr. Gandhi faces the formidable challenge of reviving the party’s sagging political fortunes. The party recorded its lowest electoral tally of 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

According to the CWC schedule, the process of filing nominations will begin on December 1 and end on December 4, 2017. The scrutiny of nominations will take place on December 5, and the list of valid nominations will be published that very day. Candidates can withdraw their nominations till December 11.

The final list of contesting candidates will also be released on the same day.

If Mr. Gandhi is the only candidate in the fray —which is a strong possibility — his election will be a forgone conclusion on December 11 itself.

If necessary — in case there are other candidates — polling will take place on December 16, and the result will be announced on December 19 after votes are counted on the same day.

The last time there was a contest for the post was when Ms. Sonia Gandhi defeated Jitendra Prasad in 2001.

Political scientist Sudha Pai told The Hindu that Mr. Gandhi should try to formulate alternative ideas to create a future vision for the party, rather than reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s politics and making it a Modi-vs-Rahul battle.

Beyond legacy issues

She added that he needed to carve out a distinctive space for himself outside the legacy of his family, as the younger generation was no longer interested in “dynastic politics”.

“The Congress has fallen to its lowest level ever. It needs alternative ideas. They should move away from their Modi-centrism. Rahul Gandhi can take up an idea, like health care or the need for better education...and give it a broader meaning,” Prof. Pai said.

“Unlike Modi — who has associated himself with such ideas as Swachh Bharat — there is no distinctive area with which Rahul has been able to associate himself till now,” she said.

“He must attract younger people to the Congress. Otherwise, it does not have a bright future.”

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