Rahul Gandhi to file papers for Congress chief’s post today
New Delhi: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is all set to file his nomination papers for the post of party president on Monday to kick off the internal poll process. At the end of a fortnight-long exercise, the Congress party could have a new person in the top job after nearly two decades.
The names of contenders to Gandhi, if any, will be published on Tuesday after scrutiny of nominations. In the event of a no contest, the final announcement of his name will take place on 11 December—the last date for withdrawal of nomination. If there’s a contest, polling will take place on 16 December and results will be declared on 19 December, the day after the results of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections are announced.
The Congress party issued notification for the election on Friday to set in motion the process for electing its new president. Gandhi is likely to file his nomination on Monday morning, with his candidature proposed by top party leaders, as per tradition and rules. For a nomination to be valid, it must have the backing of at least 10 state unit delegates. In this case, party leaders say, several such proposals could come for Rahul Gandhi. For instance, 10 leaders from Uttar Pradesh alone have already proposed his name.
As Gandhi, 47, prepares to take over the reins of the party, senior party leaders feel that its electoral performance, particularly in poll-bound states over the next two years, would be a key challenge along with strengthening of party organization from the ground level up. Apart from this, party leaders point out, Gandhi has his task cut out in shaping the Congress’ stand on key policy issues, including the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST), women’s reservation and Aadhaar.
“The immediate challenge will of course be the outcome of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections. Apart from the 2019 general elections, a lot of his focus is also going to be on crucial state elections where our party is pitted directly against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh,” a senior party leader said requesting anonymity.
Another challenge for the Gandhi scion is reviving the party in the North-East—which accounts for 25 Lok Sabha seats and has witnessed a rapid slide in Congress fortunes in the last five years. “Three significant North-East states— Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland—will go to polls early next year. Soon after Rahul Gandhi takes over, this will be the first set of elections that will happen under his presidentship and so all eyes will be set on how the party performs in these states,” another party leader involved with the organization said, requesting anonymity.
In the run-up to his elevation, Gandhi has been realigning party organization by appointing his aides and young leaders to the top posts in states as well as giving them charge of key frontal units. Party leaders feel that readying of Gandhi’s team before he takes over was done to ensure a smooth transition in a party whose old guard and young blood have often been at the crossroads.
“Rahul, who is 47, has to fill the shoes of 70-year-old Sonia Gandhi, who has been our longest serving party president. This is a big challenge but is also symbolic of a generational shift happening in the party. He will have to be a leader who not just takes the party together but also engages with other leaders of friendly parties in the months to come,” a general secretary of the party said requesting anonymity.