Analysis | Will ‘Nav Sankalp chintan shivir’ of Congress bring clarity to leadership question?



A section of the party internally debated if six crore members should decide the new chief but the Central Election Authority dismissed the idea

A section of the party internally debated if six crore members should decide the new chief but the Central Election Authority dismissed the idea

As the Congress gets ready for the ‘Nav Sankalp chintan shivir’ in Udaipur from May 13, many within the party are wondering if the brainstorming session will bring clarity to the leadership issue.

A section in the party internally debated if the six crore plus party members can directly participate in deciding who should be the new party chief by September this year.

Sources in the central election authority (CEA), however, dismissed the idea, arguing that it would require a change in the party constitution and could not be done at such short notice.

The process of election and the leadership question are of utmost importance to the Congress after a string of electoral losses and open rebellion by members of the G-23, the ginger group that pushed for internal reforms through a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi two years ago.

A party member who batted for a direct election process claimed that former party chief Rahul Gandhi too was in favour but sources in the CEA argued an electoral college of over six crore members was simply not possible to manage.

The debate surfaced, said a source, once the party completed its membership drive on April 15 during which over two crore members were digitally enrolled/renewed.

Right now, the Congress president is elected by the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates, who are elected from among District Congress Committees (DCCs) and Block Committees that are, in turn, elected by members of a booth level or a primary committee.

The electoral college for electing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) members is formed by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) whose members are chosen from the PCC and the DCCs.

“Some people may have had a discussion on some possible changes but the CEA will have to hold the election as mandated by the party constitution,” said a member of the party’s election authority, adding, “In the current system, about 8,000-9,000 PCC delegates would elect the Congress president. This is a manageable number, not six crore plus”.

As per the schedule of organisational elections, a new party chief will be “elected” by September but there is still no indication if there would be a contest or a “unanimous” choice.

A section of the Gandhi family loyalists is pushing for the return of Mr. Gandhi as full-time party chief but he has not yet spelt out his intention whether or not he would be a candidate in the internal polls. Some though see his pro-active stance in visiting States like Gujarat and Telangana as an indication of his willingness to shoulder more responsibility.

On the other hand, some G-23 leaders like former Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha P. J. Kurien, have gone public that a non-Gandhi should be the party chief while Mr. Gandhi should lead the party in Parliament.

Some others argue that Ms. Gandhi should continue until 2024 to avoid further turbulence. After the 2019 Lok Sabha debacle, Mr. Gandhi had asked his colleagues to find a non-Gandhi to steer the party. With no consensus on any name outside the family, senior leaders urged Ms. Gandhi to take over as the interim president in August 2019.

Since November 2000, when Jitendra Prasada unsuccessfully contested against Ms. Gandhi, the top post has always remained with the Gandhis.


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