India

New Congress President In June, Decision After Argument At Meeting

New Congress President In June, Decision After Argument At Meeting

Sonia Gandhi took over as interim president in 2019 after her son Rahul Gandhi stepped down. (File)

Highlights

  • Top members of Congress held a meeting today
  • At meeting it was decided to hold election of new president in June
  • Sonia Gandhi took over as interim president in 2019
New Delhi:

A new Congress president will be elected in June after five state elections, it was decided at a party meeting today after an argument between two groups, during which Rahul Gandhi reportedly said: "Once and for all, finish it and move on."

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) has decided that there will be a new elected Congress president in June 2021, KC Venugopal told reporters after a meeting of the party's top decision-making body.

At the CWC meeting, senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and P Chidambaram reportedly asked for immediate organisational polls. They are among the Congress leaders who have raised uncomfortable questions over the party's leadership and management in recent months after multiple election defeats.

Ranged against them were the so-called Gandhi loyalists -- Ashok Gehlot, Amarinder Singh, AK Antony, Tariq Anwar and Oommen Chandy, who said the Congress president's election should be held after polls in five states including Bengal and Tamil Nadu. One leader commented: "Whose agenda are we working towards? The BJP doesn't talk about internal elections like our party? The first priority is to fight the state elections then organisational elections."

Finally, the second group prevailed. The dates for the election of a Congress president and the CWC will be announced shortly and Sonia Gandhi will take the final decision, leaders said. The last election to the CWC was held in 1997.

The next president will be chosen at a time the leadership of the Gandhis has come under unprecedented scrutiny and attacks within.

Sonia Gandhi, who took over as interim president in 2019 after her son Rahul Gandhi stepped down over the Congress's national election drubbing in 2019, has made it clear that she is not in the running.

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So has Rahul Gandhi, who has stubbornly refused to reconsider his resignation and has maintained that a non-Gandhi should be given a chance.

But while the Gandhis have declined the top job, they continue to be the centre of power in the Congress. No big decision is taken without their signoff.

A section of leaders have, since last year, raised their voice against the leadership but they have failed to draw the support of the party at large.

Last August, in a sensational act of defiance, 23 top leaders wrote to Sonia Gandhi calling for a "full-time, visible leadership" and an overhaul of the Congress after its prolonged run of defeats.

Sonia Gandhi had last month met some of the letter-writers and discussed the issues raised by them. Among the signatories to the letter are Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Hooda, Prithviraj Chavan, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Mukul Wasnik. These leaders argued emphatically for choosing a new chief immediately, but were overruled.