A meeting of the Congress Working Committee is taking place today and on the agenda, apart from the routine and mundane political stock taking and the much-discussed changes to the party constitution, is re-working of the twice revised internal election schedule.
In simple terms, that means the election of Congress president will be delayed. Sonia Gandhi was elected Congress president in 2010 for a five year period. Her tenure ends this year and ideally the “election of Congress President” should have happened this month-end.
According to the schedule issued by the AICC in March, the timeline of election of Congress president was between September 21-30. The CWC will now discuss a proposal to redraw the schedule, which means delay in election of Congress president and an extension to Gandhi. As also, to all those holding posts.
Also that means, Vice President Rahul Gandhi will not take over immediately. Even without an election, the CWC can appoint him as the President and an AICC session can be called to ratify it later. But sources say Rahul’s elevation will be delayed.
But why? Those close to Rahul say his ascension is not too far away. According to one leader, it is a “matter of months.”
But why not now? Sources close to him say he is in the process of identifying his team and that is taking time. He is meeting around 15-20 “potential” leaders – mostly second and third rung – from states on almost a daily basis. In between, he is meeting the veterans also. Most of the state Congress chiefs are already handpicked by him. “The moment he feels comfortable with his team, he will take over,” a Rahul aide said.
Besides, he does not want to bring the spotlight back on internal problems and his elevation to create schisms in the party. Nationally as well as in states, the Congress is rediscovering the power and effect of agitational politics. For instance, it is planning to hold a rally to celebrate the government’s climbdown on land bill. Rahul himself has told many leaders during his visits to states that the job as Opposition is much easier – mostly criticising the government. Bringing focus on leadership change and organisational reshuffle, which could stir a hornet’s nest within the party, is best avoided.
But his critics, especially in house, do not buy that argument that easily. They say the timing is more political than organisational. One argument is that he wants to delay the takeover till the completion of the next round of difficult Assembly elections. After Bihar, elections are scheduled in Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Congress faces a stiff electoral challenge in Kerala and Assam where it is in power. It is in no position to improve its performance in West Bengal and Kerala. He does not want to begin his stint on a gloomy note.
But those close to him reject such theories. They say crucial state elections are scheduled in 2017 and 2018 as well. General elections are due in 2019. “That way he can never take over,” they say. Assembly elections are due in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in 2017. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan will go for polls in 2018.