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I’m full-time, hands-on Cong prez, avers Sonia

Sunday, 17 October 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

Rahul hints at taking party helm; Cong prez election in Aug-Sept 2022

The crucial meeting of the Congress Working Committee on Saturday saw Sonia Gandhi asserting herself as a “full-time and hands-on Congress president” and Rahul Gandhi hinting at his return at the helm of the party. The CWC decided to hold the election of Congress president between August 21 and September 20, 2022.

Sonia hit back at critics within the party — the G-23 — who have been pushing for over a year now for an organisational overhaul and a more “visible leadership”.

The G-23 is a group of 23 senior leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, P Chidambaram among others. Since last August, members of the G-23 have been vocal on several party issues, including that of leadership crisis.

“I have always appreciated frankness” and “there is no need to speak to me through the media,” Sonia said at the first offline CWC meeting post-Covid pandemic. Sources said the organisational elections were discussed amid indications that Rahul could return as the party chief same time around next year.

“I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands-on Congress president,” Sonia observed.

In the past two years, a large number of young colleagues have taken leadership roles in taking party policies and programmes to the people, she asserted.

Addressing the meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body, Sonia also underscored that the entire organisation wants a revival of the party, but this requires unity and keeping the party’s interests paramount.

“Above all, it requires self-control and discipline,” she said amidst the demand from senior leaders like AK Antony as well as Chief Ministers of Punjab, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh to bring back  Rahul as the chief of the grand old party.

News agency ANI, quoting sources said that on the insistence of senior leaders at the CWC meeting, Rahul said that he “will consider” becoming the party president again.

The CWC decided that elections for the top post will be held between August 21 and September 20 next year and the next chief could take the baton by October 2022. It emerged during the course of the discussion that there should not be any immediate changes in top leadership due to the impending crucial Assembly elections, including that of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year.

After a nearly five-hour-long meeting of the CWC, AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal announced the election schedule, which includes a massive membership drive for the polls starting from November 1, 2021, and will go on till March 31, 2022.

At a Press conference, Venugopal also stated that the election of PCC presidents, vice presidents, treasurers, PCC executives, and AICC members by the PCC general body will be held between July 21 and August 20, 2022.

The election of the Congress president will be held between August 21 and September 20, 2022, he said.

Speaking at the press conference Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said all members of the CWC have reassured their full faith in Sonia and her leadership.

On being asked whether Rahul can become the party’s president before the organisational elections, Surjewala said, “The dates have been already announced, any changes that take place will happen accordingly.”

“There is no need to speak to me through the media. So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC,” Sonia noted in her opening remarks.

Talking about the party’s revival, a key theme raised by the G-23, she said, “The entire organisation wants a revival of the Congress. But this requires unity and keeping the party’s interests paramount. Above all, it requires self-control and discipline.

“Never have we let issues of public importance and concern go unaddressed. You are aware that I have been taking them up with the Prime Minister as have Dr Manmohan Singh and Rahul ji. I have been interacting with like-minded political parties regularly. We have issued joint statements on national issues and coordinated our strategy in Parliament as well.”

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