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Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi set to take charge of party, more selection than election

Rahul Gandhi has often faced criticism for his style of functioning, especially the restricted access to him.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: November 21, 2017 1:36 pm
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is set to take charge of party Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during his election campaign in Gujarat, ahead of the state Assembly elections (Express Photo/Salman Raja)

Setting the stage for Rahul Gandhi to take charge of the party, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday announced the schedule for the election of its next president. While Sonia Gandhi has led the party for 19 years, there is no word on her role after Rahul’s elevation. The 19-day election process, timed with the Gujarat elections, will begin on December 1. However, the picture will become clear on December 4 itself, when the window for filing nominations gets over.

If there is no other candidate in the fray — the party expects no such challenge — Rahul’s election is likely to be announced either on December 5, after the scrutiny of papers, or on December 11, the last date for withdrawal of nominations. Either way, his elevation as Congress president is likely to be announced before the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly results on December 18.

If there is more than one candidate in the fray, voting will take place on December 16 and counting on December 19. In brief remarks at the CWC meeting on Monday, Rahul spoke on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal and the need to fight the BJP more aggressively. He said every party worker should “aim for the bull’s eye” in Gujarat.

So what does the generational change entail for the Congress? While there are different opinions in the party, the predominant view is that there will be no purge of the “old guard”. Or, for that matter, any immediate radical changes. But there will be an infusion of fresh blood, not necessarily young, and more aggression vis-a-vis the BJP.

“Firstly, it will bring clarity about who will lead the Congress into the 2019 elections. Secondly, there will be a shake-up in the top echelons that will combine continuity with change. Thirdly, there will be fresh focus on issues that will be raised between now and 2019. Issues of a basic nature, covering political, economic, social and international affairs, with special emphasis on grassroot democracy and grassroot development,” Congress veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar told The Indian Express. He said it would also provide an impetus to democratisation of the party.

A senior leader said Rahul “is very clear that once he becomes party president, he will change his working style also.” Rahul has often faced criticism for his style of functioning, especially the restricted access to him. “He will have to meet more people. He will have to be more available than he is now… not to leaders but to workers. Like Sonia was in her initial days… she was meeting people every day. Unless he gets feedback from people on the ground, it will be very difficult to meet the challenge of taking on the NDA government,” said Anil Shastri, permanent invitee to the CWC.

He added that Rahul faces many challenges. “His major challenge would be to revamp the party, restructure the organisation, to bring in new faces and a set-up,” said Shastri. Former union minister Milind Deora, a close aide of Rahul, said his elevation would “streamline the decision-making process” and bring in “fresh new blood” and “a new approach”.

His remarks are significant given the fact that many senior leaders have often argued that the dual centres of power create confusion in the party. AICC general secretary Kamal Nath had once said that “there are many occasions when Mrs Sonia Gandhi thinks Rahul is doing something, and Rahul thinks that Mrs Sonia Gandhi is doing something, and it falls between two stools.”

Many party leaders stressed on the decision-making aspect. “For a long time, he and his mother jointly took decisions. And because of that (there was) no ownership and clear accountability… now there will be more accountability and ownership on him,” a senior leader said.

“A gradual change is already being brought about in the party. People, both young and old, are being given positions of responsibility,” said Jitin Prasada. “Rahul presidency is the symbol of change in the Congress, when it has emerged at the forefront of the fight against the politics of hate and forces which are out to destroy the very idea of India… The idea of India is under threat from a government which wants to divide on religious and communal lines and govern like a police state,” he said.

The party, however, was not forthcoming on Sonia’s future role. “Sonia Gandhi is our leader and mentor. She has always guided the Congress party and we cannot conceive that her guidance, her able leadership will not be available. Her able leadership and guidance will always be available, not only to Rahul Gandhi, but also to crores and crores of Congress men and women always,” said Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala.

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  1. S
    Shun
    Nov 23, 2017 at 3:23 am
    Indian still accept Congress is a Pvt holding with whole equity by Indira Gandhi family,
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    1. M
      Murali
      Nov 22, 2017 at 9:03 pm
      Welcome aboard, President Pappu!
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      1. N
        NaveenNayak
        Nov 21, 2017 at 8:48 pm
        Sonia Mania for Son to succeed her SHOWS wants to keep dynastic hold on party ! Already Country has suffered enough by this trend Pray it is FULLY gone with beta who is least aware of real ground level problems and solutions required only CAN talk big taking advantage of usurped surname of MKGandhi !! He will soon decide to go back and settle down there in comfort with his girl friend, Sure !!!
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        1. B
          blackpower
          Nov 21, 2017 at 8:39 pm
          Hello young boys and gals.I love you. Please go through all the comments I have made here. : indianexpress /article/entertainment/bollywood/padmavati-row-deepika-padukone-sanjay-leela-bhansali-cbfc-isnt-it-the-govts-job-to-prevent-threats-to-filmmakers-asks-shyam-benegal-4945597/ After reading all the comments of me and my colleagues all you guys I know are in awe. And you are wondering? How exactlt did I get so smart and intelligent?Where exactly did I gain all these knowledge from? And Unfortunately no It is not from that four foul mouthed Brahma. It was all revealed to me by JESUS when the pedo father at my local church had inserted his PEN-IS in my ar-se and later also when he had pedo fun with my newborns. Now you want to be as intelligent and smart as me?? I know do. Now it is your opportunity to convert to Christianity and bring your newborns to your pedo father at your local church. And have some pedo fun. Okay no I go to have my pedo fun tonite with my holey father.
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          1. R
            reader
            Nov 21, 2017 at 8:20 pm
            rahul will be fit for put the coffin in grave, assam minister hemanta sarma when he was in congress , went meet rahul , who wa feeding his dog not even responded to him , congress do not have leader , oil leaders faded away of sidede line , only chamsas are surrounded rahul and sonia . rahul with these chamas will do the final job
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