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Buffeted by strong opposition within party, Rahul Gandhi could bypass thorny issue of internal elections

Does Gandhi plan to appoint loyalists as PCC chiefs?


New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who recently commenced the Bharat Jodo Padyatra from Kerala, is likely to put the agenda of internal party elections – a major source of much friction – on the backburner yet again, say sources.

Earlier, the G-23 leaders of the Congress, voicing their dissent about the functioning of the party at the top, had said that the immediate holding of internal party elections was a sine qua non for the overhauling of the beleaguered party.

But if sources are to be believed, Gandhi plans to appoint his loyalists as State Presidents in all states. He has even issued directives to all Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) presidents to pass a single-line resolution giving all rights of appointment for the election of the new National President.

According to sources, a closed-door meeting was held in Kerala a few days back in Gandhi’s presence when it was decided to convey a message to all Pradesh Congress Party (PCC) chiefs to hold a meeting of delegates.

At the meeting it was apparently decided that the delegates will pass a resolution to the effect that all the decisions to appoint AICC delegates and PCC Chief will be given to the new party president.

A second meeting is planned in Mumbai on Monday at the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan Hall in South Mumbai. Around 700 delegates have been asked to attend it and pass the resolution.

Confirming the meeting delegated called on Monday in Mumbai, Prithviraj Chavan, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and one of the members of the G-23 group, said that he will attend the meeting and will take a decision about the next course of action after the meeting.

Such moves, say observers, only lead to ensure that Gandhi becomes the new party president after the conclusion of the election process in October.

With the party’s fortunes at their lowest ebb, most of the disaffected senior leaders, particularly those from the G-23 group, want a fair election to take place in order for someone outside the Gandhi family to be elected.

“There is severe unrest within the party as many senior party leaders are against Rahul Gandhi following the party’s ignominious defeats in successive elections. If Sonia Gandhi does not want to become full-time President, then the due election process to elect a new president must be followed,” said a source.

A Congress leader, requesting anonymity, said the idea behind passing the resolution will effectively checkmate voices of dissent of the G-23.

“There are so many senior leaders in the party apart from Gandhis. One of them must get a chance to serve at the top. But, it seems that Rahul Gandhi has taken a U-turn from his previous agenda and wants to bypass election within the party,” said the leader.

Meanwhile, Ashish Deshmukh, one of the disgruntled Congress leaders from the Vidarbha region demanded that the PCC chief should be elected through due process and not be nominated by the party president.

His remarks come after most of the Maharashtra Congress leaders have express their disaffection with Nana Patole, the present MPCC chief.

Patole is known as being a Rahul loyalist and if the delegates do pass the resolution, Patole will remain in the same post as he will be protected by the new president.

Another leader claimed that the proposed meeting of delegates in Mumbai would be stormy with a slanging match in the offing between the supporters and opponents of Patole.

Also Read: Maharashtra: Eknath Shinde government to set up state advisory board to bring reform in education, health and agricultural sectors

A leader from Vidarbha even claimed that a split within the Congress was likely if the PCC chief were to be re-nominated by the national president against the wishes of the state leaders.

A leader from Maharashtra said that when they opposed the idea of an election to choose the president of the Pradesh Youth Wing (Pradesh Yuvan Congress) and the president of the party’s student wing – National Student’s Union of Congress (NSUI), Rahul Gandhi was adamant on holding it.

“We tried to convince him that election for these posts will encourage horse trading and use of money power, but he was firm on his decision. What happened in these elections in the past? We have seen Vishwajeet Kadam, Satyajeet Tambe and even Kunal Raut getting elected to the post of Youth Congress President only by use of their political clout and money power,” claimed the leader.

He observed that it would defeat the very purpose of Gandhi’s idea of loyal worker from the rank and file getting an opportunity.

Given that no internal party election to the Congress President’s post has been held since 1991, the stakes are indeed high this time around.

The last election to choose party president was held in 1991 when the late Ahmad Patel, Arun Singh, Gulab Nabi Azad and a few other leaders formed the panel and won 11 seats on Working Committee against then President Narasimha Rao.

In the party Constitution, there is a provision to elect 11 CWC members through election out of a total of 21 members and the Party President has the right to nominate the remaining 10 members. The idea is that even if all 11 CWC members will be elected from the opposition camp, President can not be removed from his post.

The delegates of Pradesh Pratinidhi have the right to choose AICC delegates and later have the right to elect 11 Congress Working Committee (CWC) members and the party president. Maharashtra has around 700 odd delegates and they have the right to elect 70 AICC delegates from the state.

In 1991, all CWC elected members were from the anti-Rao camp and hence Rao had cannily given them the status of nominated members to puncture their opposition.

Vivek Bhavsar
Vivek Bhavsar
Vivek Bhavsar is the Editor-In-Chief. He is a senior journalist having experience of more than 30 years in political and investigative journalism. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheNews21. He has worked with leading English mainline dailies, including The Asian Age, Free Press Journal, and also carries the experience of strides in leading regional newspapers like Lokmat and Saamana.


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