Congress constitution stirs debate on who all can elect president

Congress core panel had given quite burial after some leaders refuse to attend.

Rahul Gandhi (File Pic)
NEW DELHI: Deliberations on holding a Congress Working Committee meeting to elect Rahul Gandhi’s successor has opened a debate on who all can attend the extraordinary CWC to elect a new party chief. Some leaders pointed out that the Congress constitution and convention for “extraordinary situation when there is a vacancy at the top” is clear that only 24 full-fledged members were entitled to attend such a CWC. Twenty-nine permanent invitees, special invitees and ex-officio members to CWC may not be entitled to attend the meet to elect a new party chief. Only the 24 members met to elect Narasimha Rao as Congress president, after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991. The convention was retained when Kesri was elected after Rao’s resignation in 1996, and when he was sacked and Sonia Gandhi made party chief in 1998. Incidentally, most leaders who recently aired views on the future leadership are not full-fledged CWC members and many invitees are trying to find out if an exception will be made this time.

When asked if outgoing Congress president Rahul Gandhi could use his discretion to have invitees for the extraordinary CWC, a leader said, “So far there is no precedent, but the jury is out on this.” The Congress camp has been cautious in following rules to ensure ‘mischief-makers’ do not challenge in court the provisions followed in electing a new president. Former general secretary Janardan Dwivedi had asked on Tuesday why no formal consultative committee was constituted either by Gandhi or his advisers to hold in-house discussions for election of a new party chief.

The Congress constitution says “CWC shall consist of the president of the Congress, leader of Congress in Parliament and 23 other members, of whom 12 are elected by AICC, as per rules, and the rest appointed by the Congress president.” The Congress constitution also allows AICC to authorise the Congress president to nominate all 24 main CWC members, a course that Gandhi opted after authorisation he secured at the Delhi AICC session. The CWC is also empowered to appoint an interim Congress president in case of a vacancy with the condition that it will be ratified by an AICC session. The Congress constitution does not include ‘invitee’ in its definition of ‘CWC member’. Congress CMs, deputy CMs and PCC chiefs can only attend extended, not regular, CWC meetings.

Apart from the three Gandhi family members, other full-fledged CWC members are Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni, Motilal Vora, Mallikarjun Kharge, Anand Sharma, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik, Kumari Selja, Siddharamaiah, Oommen Chandy, Tarun Gogoi, Harish Rawat, Dipak Babaria, Avinash Pande, Raghuveer Singh Meena, Gaikhangam, Tamradhwaj Sahu, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Luizinho Falerio. Of these, Scindia, Rawat and Babaria can attend only if their resignations are rejected. Apart from Sheila Dikshit, P Chidambaram and Meira Kumar, other notable ‘invitees’ include RPN Singh, Randeep Surjewala, Jitendra Singh, Jitin Prasada, PC Puniya, Rajeev Satav, RC Khuntia, Gaurav Gogoi, PC Chacko and Sachin Rao.

Core Committee buried: A nine-member Congress core committee that Rahul Gandhi appointed before Lok Sabha polls has been given a silent burial after some senior members objected to it carrying on deliberations on organisational matters, saying it was constituted only to deal with LS poll issues.
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