New Delhi: The Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday formally initiated the process to elect the next party chief.
According to an article in the Indian Express: “Announcing the dates for the election at a press conference in New Delhi, the party said the poll notification will be issued on December 1 and the nomination and scrutiny process will be completed by December 5. The last date for withdrawal of nomination is December 11. Voting, if needed, will be held on December 16 and results will be declared on December 19, the party said.”
While reports first said that a CWC unanimously passed a resolution supporting Rahul Gandhi for the post, party members clarified later that no such resolution was past.
Rahul will likely take over the party organisation’s reins from his mother Sonia, the longest-serving president of the Congress. Sonia was elected to the top post in 1998. Currently a Lok Sabha member from Amethi, Rahul was appointed general secretary of the Congress on September 24, 2007. He was elevated to the post of the party’s vice-president in 2013.
The Congress’s organisational poll results will be declared on December 19, a day after Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh poll outcomes come in.
Rahul has been at the forefront of his party’s ongoing electoral campaign in Gujarat, a state where the party been unable to make any electoral and political headway since 2002. This time, however, policies like demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, coupled with persisting farmer distress, seem to be feeding into anger against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and in the state. Rahul seems to be going all out to cash in on this growing disaffection.
With the Congress formally announcing its decision for a change of guard, all eyes are going to be on the 47 year old. The demand that Rahul take over party presidentship had been gaining ground within the Congress since the BJP’s massive victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, whittling the Congress to just 44 members in the Lower House. A string of electoral defeats the opposition party subsequently suffered, further added to its political vulnerability.
It now remains to be seen whether Rahul can turn the party’s fortune around. “Congress fortunes are not exactly on the upswing but Rahul Gandhi seems more confident and combative, he is willing to take on Modi which has put him on the defensive. Also there is a change in perception about him, he is being taken more seriously, so this is right time for him to be appointed as the Congress president. He can make a difference if he succeeds in refurbishing the party organisation, masters the art of communication and offers an alternative vision to counter BJP’s divisive politics and disastrous economics,” said political scientist Zoya Hasan.
Note: An earlier version of this article erroneously said that the CWC had already passed a resolution supporting Rahul for the top post.