The Election Commission (EC) has directed the Congress to conclude its organisational elections by June, rejecting the grand old party’s plea for a one-year extension.
The poll panel conveyed its decision in a letter to the Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation,. Janardan Dwivedi.
The main opposition party said it was yet to receive the EC’s communiqué, but maintained it will have no problem in holding the internal polls at a “mutually agreed” date.
“We will talk to them (EC) and complete our organisational polls on a mutually agreed date,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
Party sources said the organisational polls were likely to be held anytime after the results of the assembly polls are announced on March 11.
The Congress had written to the EC on December 16 last year, seeking time till December 31, 2017 to hold its organisational elections in view of the upcoming assembly elections in five states.
That was the second time the party had sought an extension of the cut-off date. Earlier, in September 2015, the party had urged the EC to extend the deadline till 31 December 2016.
As per rules, all registered political parties have to hold their internal elections annually.
The commission has asked the 131-year-old party to submit a complete list of “office-bearers, members of committees, etc elected at such elections” latest by July 15, 2017.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, 70, holds the record of being the party chief for 18 consecutive years after taking over from Sitaram Kesri in 1998.
When the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, in its last meeting on November 7, 2016 sought an extension of Sonia’s term till December 2017, it did not necessarily mean that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi will have to wait another year to take over the reins of the party.
In fact, as many as 32 CWC members had in that meeting urged 46-year-old Rahul, to assume the top post. But a Congress functionary said the timing of the change of guard has to be decided by Sonia and Rahul. He further explained that the CWC resolution on Sonia’s extension was a technical requirement that will have no bearing on Rahul’s elevation.
Senior leaders also refer to the party constitution to suggest that the change of guard could take place any time. The Congress constitution gives special power to the CWC to take any decision, including the appointment of party chief, with the condition that the move has to be ratified by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) within six months.
It was on March 14, 1998 that the CWC exercised this provision to appoint Sonia as the Congress president in place of Kesri. The AICC then ratified the move on April 6, 1998.