Cong sets stage to name Rahul Gandhi party chief

NEW DELHI (TIP): The Congress on May 15 deferred its organizational elections and is set to call the much-awaited AICC conclave, twin moves that appear to be setting the stage for Rahul Gandhi’s coronation as party chief.

Sources said the leadership would soon finalize the dates for the AICC meeting now that the Parliament session has ended. While the meeting is required to carry out changes in the party constitution that relate to organizational elections, sources said the agenda could go beyond technical issues to far-reaching political decisions like generational change in the party.

Rahul’s coronation is being seen as a strong possibility at the AICC meet. A big reason for the early passing of the baton would be that Rahul has shed his reluctance to take over the party after his return from a 56-day sabbatical besides intensely engaging in political activities that was missing since his differences with party veterans surfaced in the last year of UPA.

In a development seen as related, Congress extended the membership drive by a month from May 15 to June 15, putting off party elections that were announced a few weeks ago.

Sources said the postponement of internal polls, already announced to be held in two phases, has been necessitated by multiple factors. While many states sought one more month to finish the membership drive, the leadership feels that organizational focus should be on Rahul’s countrywide tours which are proving effective in reviving workers’ morale after the election defeat.

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Internal polls, tying state chiefs and aspirants down to the block level, would impede the process of Rahul connecting with workers and carrying his message to areas where he is not touring.

There has been little clarity on the timing of Rahul’s elevation, the uncertainty compounded by the heir apparent’s decision to suddenly embark on a ‘leave for introspection’ which lasted nearly two months. It not only messed up the planned schedule of the AICC session but also many protest programmes against the Modi government.

However, his return from the sabbatical followed by an intense political engagement has led to optimism in the party.

Sources said Rahul left the question of his elevation to the AICC veterans, reportedly saying that they decide on when he should take over the party reins from Sonia Gandhi.

The move to leave the issue to the ‘old guard’ was aimed at quelling his criticism in certain quarters since the party defeat in Lok Sabha polls.

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