Amid buzz over the Congress president elections and its prospective candidates, party interim chief Sonia Gandhi met general secretary KC Venugopal on Tuesday evening at her 10 Janpath residence in Delhi. Venugopal termed it a “routine meeting” to discuss pending organisational issues and said that “anybody can contest” the poll which will be “free and fair as well as transparent” when asked about it by the media. The meeting between the two leaders came at a time when Shashi Tharoor and Ashok Gehlot are being seen as the contenders to enter the fray.
Congress will hold polls to elect its president on October 17, with the filing of nominations scheduled to be held from September 24 to 30. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 8 and the votes will be counted on October 19.
Here’s all about the election process of the Congress and its probable candidates so far:
The Procedure to Elect Congress President
The Congress claims to be the only party to elect its president. Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates vote for the president and block presidents vote for the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which is the party’s top decision-making body.
There is one delegate per block in each state and the blocks are ones notified by the government. The number of PCC delegates is different for each state, depending on the number of blocks. For any person to file a nomination, at least 10 PCC delegates have to propose his or her name. These delegates will vote for the president in states they belong to.
The constitution of Congress defines “all members of the PCC” as delegates of the Indian National Congress (INC). There are six ways in which a person can become a PCC member as defined by the constitution. The INC delegates choose the Congress president from among nominated candidates.
The chairperson of the party’s election authority is the returning officer for the election, who sends the list of nominated candidates to each state unit after seven days from the filing of nominations. The returning officer waits to see if any candidate wants to withdraw their nomination. If only one candidate remains after withdrawal of nominations, the person is automatically elected president.
If the case is not so and there are two candidates, INC delegates choose their preferred candidate. If there are more than two, delegates indicate preference for at least two out of the total number of candidates.
The elections are held in the PCC headquarters of each state and counting of votes is based on the principle of single transferable vote. The candidate with the highest number of votes is declared the president of the Congress.
‘Anybody Can Contest’
When asked by the reporters in Delhi today if the Congress chief poll was also discussed during his meeting with Gandhi, Venugopal said, “Polls have been announced, what is the need for a discussion? On September 22, notification will come and nomination will start on September 24. Whoever wants to file a nomination, can file it. We have said it will be an open election, anybody can contest, free and fair election, definitely it will be a transparent election and that has been our stand which is continuing.”
The upcoming elections would certainly be historic as the new president would replace Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving party president who has been at the helm since 1998, barring the two years between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi took over. Notably, if Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul refuse to be party president, the Congress will have its first non-Gandhi chief in over two decades. Here are the names of some prospective candidates who are likely to enter the fray:
Sonia Gandhi: After Congress’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul had quit as Congress chief after which his mother Sonia Gandhi took over it again as the interim president and continues to hold the same. According to a Zee news report, senior Congress leaders have requested her to continue in the chief post till 2024 general elections.
Rahul Gandhi: Recently, the former chief of Congress hinted that he was not totally out of the picture for party president post consideration. He had said that the matter of him becoming party president will be clearer when elections happen. “Whether I will become Congress president or not will be clearer when party elections (to the post) happen,” Gandhi had said during the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra.
On being asked if Rahul will contest polls, Venugopal today said only the former can decide and he “has not told us anything”.
Shashi Tharoor: The 66-year-old leader and Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram met Sonia Gandhi on Monday and expressed his intention to contest the election. According to news agency PTI, Gandhi is learnt to have conveyed to Tharoor that she would stay “neutral” in the polls.
When asked about Tharoor being a possible contender, Venugopal said, “Not only Shashi Tharoor, anybody who wants to contest, can contest.” Earlier, Tharoor had reportedly written to the Congress’s central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry seeking the publication of electoral rolls for the upcoming election.
Ashok Gehlot: Rajasthan Chief Minister and senior Congress leader is being considered a candidate for the top post favored by the present dispensation, sources told PTI. Gehlot, however, had sought to play down reports about him being the frontrunner and has been saying that he will put efforts till the last minute to convince Rahul Gandhi to contest the polls.
In the coming days. it would be interesting to see if a surprise candidate also jumps in the fray to be the Congress president.
(with inputs from PTI)
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