Amid indications that Rahul Gandhi is not keen to return as Congress president and there could be a contest for the party’s top post, a few Congress leaders on Wednesday expressed apprehension that some state units could pass resolutions expressing faith in leadership of the Gandhis, or even urging Sonia Gandhi to continue as party chief.
This, they argued, could vitiate the election process.
Officially, the party said it is desirable to arrive at a “consensus” to ensure unanimous election of a person as Congress chief, although there will be an election if a consensus is not possible.
The concern among a section of leaders came to the fore on a day the party’s central election authority, headed by Madhusudan Mistry, told its Pradesh Returning Officers (PROs) to set in motion election of state Congress presidents before September 20. The PROs were asked to ensure that all Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates, which make up the electoral college, are given identity cards with QR codes by then.
Sources said Mistry asked the PROs to hold meetings of PCCs over the next three or four days. “If any PCC wants to pass a resolution authorising the Congress (national) president to decide on the PCC president, they are free to do so,” a source said. “If there is a demand for election for the post of PCC president, the PROs should oversee that.”
Asked whether any resolution will be passed asking the Gandhis to continue to helm the party, a source said, “Mistry made it very clear (in his meeting with PROs) that this does not involve the Congress president’s election, for which the schedule has already been announced.”
Asked about the election to the AICC chief’s post, a senior party leader said, “All I can say is nothing is planned — it is up to PCCs. But it is quite clear now that Rahul will not contest, and he does not want anyone from the family to head the party either…. So I don’t see any point in passing such resolutions (by PCC). It will actually go against the wishes of the young man (Rahul), but we can’t predict what the PCCs will do.”
Wondering what such resolutions will “achieve”, another Congress leader pointed out, “If somebody files nomination…there will be a contest.”
One leader from the G-23 camp said state units passing resolutions and asking the Gandhis to be at the helm will vitiate and influence the election process.
AICC general secretary in charge of communication, Jairam Ramesh said he favours a consensus in selection of the new AICC chief. “In the history of Indian National Congress, generally we have selected people by consensus,” he told PTI. “There had been elections — in 1938, 1950, 1997 and 2000 — but my view is that of a broad consensus — the Kamaraj view. I belong to the Kamaraj school.”
On talk about a contest, Ramesh said if a consensus is not possible, “we should have elections”. On talk that Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor could throw his hat in the ring, Ramesh said, “Mr Tharoor is welcome to contest. It’s a democratic process. We are the only political party which has elections to the post of president.”
Taking an indirect dig at Tharoor and other leaders who call for organisational reforms and election to the party president’s post, Ramesh said it is “unrealistic” that the Congress or any other party in India should be run on the lines of the Labour and the Conservative parties in the United Kingdom. “I think people who say this don’t understand the realities of India,” he said.
“Mrs Sonia Gandhi is a person everybody looks up to (and) she will continue to be a person everybody looks up to,” Ramesh, a senior Rajya Sabha MP, said. “Mr Rahul Gandhi is a Member of Parliament and he is on a five-month-long Bharat Jodo Yatra. So he will be very prominent. He will be an ideological compass.”
Ramesh also said that Rahul will not do backseat driving if another leader takes up the party’s reins.