The Congress, rocked by the resignation of its veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who openly blamed senior leader Rahul Gandhi for the decline of the party, will meet on Sunday to finalise and announce the dates for the election of its next president.
Sonia Gandhi will preside over the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, which will be held virtually as the Congress president, along with her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, is abroad for a medical checkup. With some of the G23 leaders questioning the fairness of the electoral rolls prepared by the AICC for holding the elections, it is to be seen whether the issue will come up at the CWC meeting.
Sources in the party indicated that the election process could be delayed by a week or two. The party was to elect a new president to replace Sonia Gandhi between August 21 and September 20. But all indications are that the process would spill over into October.
In his resignation letter on Friday, Azad had claimed that attempts were underway to prop up “proxies” to take over the leadership of the party. With Rahul Gandhi not keen to return as Congress president, many party leaders believe the Gandhis would throw their weight behind Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for the top post.
“Unfortunately, the situation in the Congress party has reached such a point of no return that now ‘proxies’ are being propped up to take over the leadership of the Party. This experiment is doomed to fail because the Party has been so comprehensively destroyed that the situation has become irretrievable. Moreover, the ‘chosen one’ would be nothing more than a puppet on a string,” Azad had said.
Meanwhile, several Congress leaders from Azad’s home state of Jammu and Kashmir, including his close confidant and former state minister G M Saroori, met him on Saturday amid clear indications that he is set to launch a political party with its first unit coming up in J&K. Several former MLAs too are said to have met Azad. Several Congress leaders from J&K, who owe allegiance to Azad, had quit the party on Friday.
Azad is expected to travel to Jammu in the first week of September to prepare for the launch of the party.
Some of the senior leaders in the party, meanwhile, continued to urge Rahul to take over. “We will ask him, we will force him and request him (to return as Congress president). We stand behind him. We will try to persuade him,” said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.