NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi’s long-expected takeover of the Congress party is likely on December 4, the party indicated after a meeting of its top leaders at its chief Sonia Gandhi’s 10 Janpath home in Delhi this morning.
The party has announced the timeline for its internal election, widely seen as a formality with leaders endorsing Rahul Gandhi’s name for the top job. The 47-year-old Congress Vice President is set to succeed his mother Sonia Gandhi and is expected to be elected unopposed like she has been for the last 17 years.
For form’s sake, the Congress has said that aspirants for the post of Congress president must come forward by December 4. If someone in the party does challenge Rahul Gandhi, an election will be held on December 15 and results would be declared on December 19.
Effectively, Rahul Gandhi is likely to be elected the Congress boss before the Gujarat assembly elections, which begin on December 9, the first of two days of voting. The Gujarat results will be announced on December 18.
At today’s meeting, Mr Gandhi spoke about what he called the lack of development in Gujarat, the home state of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. Rahul Gandhi said the BJP is on the defensive; the Congress Vice President is leading an aggressive bid by his party to reclaim power in Gujarat, ruled by the BJP for the last 22 years.
Other Congress leaders said they want adequate measures taken to ensure Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) are not tampered with in the Gujarat elections. The Congress has joined other opposition parties in alleging that the BJP owes some part of its sweep of elections in states like Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand earlier this year to tampered EVMs.
It was not necessary, said party leaders, for Sonia Gandhi, 70, to summon the 25-odd members of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, for a meeting today to officially approve the schedule of the party election, but she insisted on it.
The Election Commission had set the party a deadline of December 31 to complete its organisational elections, after giving it an extension.
Sonia Gandhi had said last month that Rahul Gandhi, seen as waiting in the wings for years, would be elevated soon. Mrs Gandhi has been Congress President since 1998, making her the longest-serving chief of the party. She has been unwell in recent years and has scaled back her public engagements, which has meant Rahul Gandhi being at the forefront.
He became the party’s number 2 in January 2013.