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Congress in Rajasthan wants Rahul Gandhi back at helm of the party

Party poll panel chief Madhusudan Mistry says plea won’t have a bearing on presidential election schedule

September 17, 2022 06:52 pm | Updated September 18, 2022 07:18 am IST - Jaipur, New Delhi

The Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee passed a resolution on September 17, 2022 to appoint Rahul Gandhi as the party chief. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee passed a resolution on September 17, 2022 to appoint Rahul Gandhi as the party chief. Photo: Special Arrangement

In a sign that Gandhi family loyalists have not given up on Rahul Gandhi, the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) on Saturday unanimously passed a resolution, calling for the appointment of Mr. Gandhi as the party chief.

The resolution could also set off a domino effect with other State units passing similar resolutions to add to the growing chorus of “Rahul as party chief”.

The Rajasthan PCC’s move, barely a week before the actual process for filing of nominations is set to begin, comes amid speculation that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot could be elevated as the Congress president.

Mr. Gehlot himself proposed the resolution for making Mr. Gandhi the Congress chief, in the presence of 400 PCC delegates who will be casting their vote in the election.

Reacting to the development, chairman of the Central Election Authority (CEA), Madhusudan Mistry, told The Hindu that the PCC resolution will not have any bearing on the presidential polls and the CEA would move with the election schedule announced earlier.

“As far as we (the CEA) are concerned, the presidential polls will be held as scheduled. Whoever files the nomination and doesn’t withdraw finally, they will be considered as candidates,” Mr. Mistry told The Hindu.

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Geholt for chief?

While Mr. Gehlot has been giving conflicting signals on his next move, despite the Congress high command asking him to lead the party, former Congress chief and Lok Sabha member from Wayanad, Mr. Gandhi has dropped a clear hint that he is not willing to take back the reins of the party.

On August 23, The Hindu had reported that incumbent Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has asked Mr. Gehlot to lead the party. The Rajasthan Chief Minister had recently affirmed that he was not going to stay away from Rajasthan till his last breath, irrespective of any responsibility that could be assigned to him.

At Saturday’s meeting, all the PCC members supported the resolution in favour of Mr Gandhi by “raising their hands,” Food & Civil Supplies Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas told reporters. 

The meeting of the newly elected PCC members from different districts was convened to authorise the party high command to appoint the State Congress president and All India Congress Committee (AICC) delegates from the State in the presence of AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan Ajay Maken, Pradesh Returning Officer Rajendra Kumpawat and PCC president Govind Singh Dotasra among others.

However, the meeting became an occasion for the participants to repose their faith in Mr. Gandhi’s leadership abilities. Addressing the PCC delegates, Mr. Gehlot claimed that Mr Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra was uniting the country at a scale that was previously unheard of.

Also Read | Congress presidential election | Nothing to hide, says party poll panel chief

Consensus vs. due course

With Gandhi family loyalists once again exerting pressure ahead of the presidential elections, questions are being raised if there would actually be a contest. There is also a debate about authorising the incoming party chief to nominate AICC members who elect members to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision making body.

“What’s the point of elections if you have to authorise the incoming president to nominate AICC members? This means the CWC would be a rubber stamp,” said a senior leader.

Though a section of the Congress would prefer the occupant of the party’s top post to be chosen through consensus, party functionaries, who are tasked with holding the elections, assert they are ready for voting.

“In a country where no major political party has internal democracy to chose its President, the Congress party is undertaking painstaking efforts to conduct fair elections, including pioneering measures such as QR coded ID cards for all delegates. Armchair cynics can always nitpick but the truth is the CEA is fully prepared to conduct internal elections,” head of Congress’ Data Analytics department, Praveen Chakravarty said.

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