The Congress’s top rung has asked all state units to pass resolutions for interim president Sonia Gandhi to nominate state unit chiefs and All India Congress Committee (AICC) members, sources have told NDTV. This means a question mark on the entire process of internal elections to be held next month, though the centrepiece of that — election of a party president — may not be covered by such resolutions.
Sonia Gandhi as the party matriarch is not in the contest, but what’s really put the party in a fix is her son Rahul Gandhi’s decision not to contest either. The family is learnt to be keen on a non-Gandhi after more than 20 years. This means Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, currently a general secretary, is not an option.
Loyalists such as Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot are seen as possible non-Gandhi options.
Insiders say nothing stops the state delegates from passing a resolution to allow current chief Sonia Gandhi to name the next Congress president as well. But that will not be binding on the Congress Central Election Authority. “We are not a part of this process of passing resolutions,” said a leader associated with the poll process.
Rahul Gandhi remains the party’s projected leader for the voters nonetheless, evident in his leading the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ to build momentum for the 2024 contest against PM Narendra Modi and the BJP.
Pradesh Congress Committees have been requested to pass resolutions before the 20th of this month. The process of election notification starts from September 22; nominations can be filed between September 24 and 30, and voting is on October 17.
Sonia Gandhi has been interim president for the past three years. She held the post fulltime for a record 18 consecutive years until her son Rahul Gandhi succeeded her in 2017, elected unopposed. But he quit after the 2019 Lok Sabha election loss, and she returned for an interim setup. The election is due since.
The last time the party saw an actual contest for the top post was in 2000, when senior leader Jitendra Prasad from Uttar Pradesh challenged Sonia Gandhi. She won with 99 per cent of the delegate votes. He stayed with the Congress for years after that; as did his son Jitin Prasada, but he is now with the BJP.
For a party beset by heavy losses to a resurgent and now-dominant BJP — such as today’s mass defection in Goa — the process comes with baggage, particularly questions over Rahul Gandhi’s interest and abilities. There have been several high-profile exits too, the latest being that of Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of 23 senior leaders who’d demanded reforms within.
Even in the elections now, five MPs, including Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari, raised concerns about the process and written to election authority head Madhusudan Mistry, demanding “transparency, fairness” in the process.
After this, the party agreed to a key change. Now, anyone who wants to file nomination for the president’s post will be able to see the list of all 9,000 delegates who make up the electoral college. This list will be available at the office of the election authority from September 20, Mr Mistry has said.
Today, Mr Mistry told NDTV that to ensure fairness, delegates are being given ID cards with unique QR codes, which would make their details accessible for a cross-check with just a camera scan.