SETTING THE stage for Rahul Gandhi to take over from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday announced the schedule for the election of its next president. There is no word on the role Sonia — who has been at the helm for 19 years — will play after Rahul’s elevation.
The 19-day election process, timed with the Gujarat elections, will begin on December 1. However, the picture will become clear on December 4 itself, when the window for filing nominations gets over. If there is no other candidate in the fray — the party expects no such challenge — Rahul’s election is likely to be announced either on December 5, after the scrutiny of papers, or on December 11, the last date for withdrawal of nominations. Either way, his elevation as Congress president is set to be announced before the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly results on December 18.
If there is more than one candidate in the fray, voting will take place on December 16 and counting on December 19.
In brief remarks at the CWC meeting on Monday, Rahul spoke on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal and the need to fight the BJP more aggressively. He said every party worker should “aim for the bull’s eye” in Gujarat.
So what does the generational change entail for the Congress? While there are different opinions in the party, the predominant view is that there will be no purge of the “old guard”. Or, for that matter, any immediate radical changes. But there will be an infusion of fresh blood, not necessarily young, and more aggression vis-a-vis the BJP.
“Firstly, it will bring clarity about who will lead the Congress into the 2019 elections. Secondly, there will be a shake-up in the top echelons that will combine continuity with change. Thirdly, there will be fresh focus on issues that will be raised between now and 2019. Issues of a basic nature, covering political, economic, social and international affairs, with very special emphasis on grassroot democracy and grassroot development,” Congress veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar told The Indian Express.