Putting to rest all speculation and debate, Rahul Gandhi is set to be elevated as Congress president within the next couple of weeks. Party chief Sonia Gandhi has convened a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday to approve the schedule for election of the Congress president.
Sources in the party said the Mullappally Ramachandran-headed central election authority, which oversees conduct of the organisational polls, has submitted multiple schedules to the Congress president. The process of election — from the date of notification to nomination, withdrawal, scrutiny and actual election — will take 12 to 14 days.
It is up to the working committee to decide the time frame, but sources in the party said Rahul is expected to take over before the first phase of polling in Gujarat, on December 9. A senior leader told The Sunday Express he could take over by the end of November itself.
It is not clear whether the CWC will decide the role Sonia will play post Rahul’s elevation, or convene another meeting later on this. Sources said she would remain a figurehead and could continue as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party.
Sonia has held the post of Congress chief since 1998, and is now the longest-serving president of the party. The delay in convening the CWC and the suspense over Rahul’s elevation have been the subject of much debate in the party. It was in November last year that the CWC unanimously asked Rahul to take over, but he wanted to follow the election route.
But while the election process began months ago and went largely as per schedule, the last leg — the election of the party chief — had been delayed. Though this was attributed to the leadership’s preoccupation with the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections, most senior leaders were of the view that Rahul should be elevated before the Gujarat polls.
Rahul, who entered politics in 2004, was appointed the vice-president of the party in 2013. He has been virtually running the party for some time since ill-health forced Sonia to take a back seat. Lately, he has also led the Congress campaign in Gujarat from the front, and has been strident in his attacks on the Narendra Modi government.