New Delhi: The Congress party on Thursday announced the schedule for its internal organisational polls at a time when its vice-president Rahul Gandhi is on a sabbatical.

The next party president will be elected by 30 September.

The polls will be held in two phases from 15 May to 15 October.

The first phase will cover all northerneast states, Chhattisgarh, Goa, and Gujarat, among others.

The second phase will cover most southern states and states crucial for the party such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The schedule was announced in a statement by Janardan Dwivedi, general secretary in-charge of organisation.

The Congress leadership is trying to strengthen the party through organisational polls after suffering its worst defeat ever in general elections last year, followed by losses in five states: Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi.

The party is currently conducting a membership drive. The drive has been extended from 31 March, when it was earlier due to end, and will now go on till 15 May.

Through this election process, the party will elect the president and executives of booth level committees, block Congress committees, district Congress committees and pradesh Congress committees.

It will elect members of the Congress working committee (CWC)—its highest decision making body—in a plenary session of the party, the dates for which are yet to be declared.

As the party prepares to revamp its organisational representation, all eyes are set on the election of the party president. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is currently at the helm of the affairs as the longest serving top functionary of the party. She completed 17 years as party president earlier this month.

There is a growing clamour from a significant section in the party that wants Rahul Gandhi to succeed his mother. The Gandhi scion has still not said whether he would take over.

“That would be discussed in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session whenever it is scheduled to take place. As of now, a decision on the date will happen only when he (Rahul Gandhi) returns," said a leader, who did not wish to be named.

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