Rahul Gandhi steps in, Congress Working Committee may expand search for chief

Rahul Gandhi says PCC chiefs, CLP leaders and AICC secretaries should be consulted.

Congress likely to get a new president today, CWC meets to decide on party chief's post
NEW DELHI: The Congress Working Committee (CWC), in its meeting on Saturday, may only decide to hold “wider consultations” for a day or more to arrive at a consensus on the choice of new leader, instead of electing a provisional party president straight away, following intervention by outgoing president Rahul Gandhi on Friday.

Signalling intense tussle within the party, Gandhi announced this at a meeting of All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretaries, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leaders and party MPs called to brief them on the CWC’s views on the Centre’s decisions on Jammu and Kashmir.

Gandhi’s intervention came after the party leadership had reached a consensus on electing a Dalit leader, most likely most senior general secretary Mukul Wasnik -- or Mallikarjun Kharge or Kumari Selja -- as provisional Congress chief at the CWC meet on Saturday, said people aware of the matter.


Although the Congress constitution clearly states that only CWC members can discuss and elect an interim party chief when a vacancy occurs due to the resignation or death of the incumbent chief, Gandhi told the participants that even party secretaries, PCC chiefs and CLP leaders should be consulted before an interim Congress president is elected, said people who attended the meeting.

ET had reported on July 30 that Gandhi’s hand-picked appointee Sachin Rao had written to all CWC members, saying the process of naming interim president lacked transparency and therefore the CWC should meet to only frame a formal consultation process for electing the new chief. The report had said that Rao may have been acting at the behest of some “higher up”, something that now stands confirmed by Gandhi’s decision.

Earlier on Friday, AICC general Secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal sounded out some senior leaders about what Gandhi had in mind.

So now, the CWC is expected to meet on Saturday, decide for further consultation for the entire day or more before announcing the new leader.

According to some observers, Gandhi’s decision to enlarge the discussion beyond the CWC means he lacked support in the party’s top body to get a person of his choice elected. That is why, they said, Gandhi wants an unprecedented exercise involving second-rung AICC secretaries, and PCC and CLP chiefs, most of whom have been appointed by him.

The development came close on the heels of many younger leaders asking Gandhi to continue as party chief or to make a choice from among them for the top post.
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