The indecisiveness of the Congress party to elect a permanent party president could now emerge as a threat to its own existence as the party could well now be facing suspension or disqualification if it fails to provide a satisfactory explanation to the Election Commission on why it has not been able to elect a permanent president following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation last year, reports Sunday Guardian.
In 2019, Sonia Gandhi was made the interim president by the Congress Working Committee after Rahul Gandhi quit the post after the general elections fiasco. On Monday she would complete one year in office. The party claims that that the process to elect new chief has been postponed due to coronavirus pandemic and assured of complying with the provisions of the EC as soon as normalcy was restored.
The Election Commission often stays away from interfering into the party’s internal issues. However, if it chooses, it can initiate action against any political party for failing to comply with the rules and regulations. The EC could also freeze the election symbol under the Symbol Order, which is an executive decision.
The political parties are governed by Section 29 (A), sub-clause (V) of the Representation of People’s Act, introduced in 1989 to bring them under its ambit. Each political party, including the Congress, has to re-register itself, and agree to show its allegiance to the Constitution of India and participate in the periodic elections.
Even though there are no rules for ensuring mandatory compliance, the Election Commission can time-and-again take a call on the matter, if and when, it deems appropriate. The EC may now examine if the INC Constitution has a specific provision regarding the election of a new president within a specified period after the incumbent vacates the post. The commission can order the party to hold the internal elections within this stipulated time frame.
Crisis deepens in Congress party as Sonia Gandhi’s health deteriorates
The worry for the grand-old-party is that the crisis within the party is likely to further deepen. The interim President Sonia Gandhi was recently admitted to the Ganga Ram hospital over some health complications. If she decides to go abroad for her annual medical check-up, the party may need to elect someone else in her place especially if Rahul Gandhi is reluctant to take charge. The president of the party can only be elected only by the All India Congress Committee.
Meanwhile, the party cadres, including senior leaders of the party are demanding that the AICC should be convened at the earliest to fill up the key organisational position. They have also been asking for the reinstatement of the Congress Parliamentary Board, with a duly elected Working Committee, to provide representation to leaders who have a mass connect.
Since multiple power centres have emerged, Congress party is currently highly vulnerable and susceptible to the machinations of the BJP, the Congress leaders believe since the current state of the organisation is both leaderless and directionless.
While the Madhya Pradesh government collapsed earlier this year, the Rajasthan government is facing an existential crisis as well. There are also reports which indicate that the Chhattisgarh government may go the Madhya Pradesh way. The coalition government in Jharkhand also seems to have a bleak future. The BJP has been closely following the unfolding drama within the Congress and is waiting on the sidelines to take advantage of the unfurling situation.
The indecisiveness of Rahul Gandhi
One of the outstanding issues with the Congress party is the indecisiveness of Rahul Gandhi. On one hand he has reportedly made it clear that he does not want to return as the party chief, on the other hand, he prefers to remain silent when his close associates raise demands for his reinstatement.
Moreover, Sonia Gandhi’s health situation does not permit her to be pro-active as the president. Hence, the party may have to relieve her from many responsibilities in the larger interest of the organisation at the earliest. However, one of the major concerns has been that her her prolonged tenure has centralised the decision-making process. Most of the decisions of the party are made by her without any process of consultation. Prior to this, the Congress leaders apparently took decisions in consultation with the Congress Parliamentary Board.
At one point, the CPB was an all-powerful body and each Rajya Sabha seat or that of the Legislative Council required its clearance. Contrastingly, the Congress party has done away with the CPB. Meanwhile the BJP has adopted the same with the Parliamentary Board of the party collectively arriving at important decisions with consultations.
Ever since Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the party, she has been the supreme leader. Apart from being the party president, she was also the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, the chairperson of the UPA and the head of the Election Committee and the Working Committee. She was also the convener of the National Advisory Council, during the UPA regime, which made her the de-facto Prime Minister.
Some believe that such a concentration of authority and power has led to the decline of the party. In addition, her proclivity of favouring Dalits-Muslims over others fragmented and weakened the party.
The senior leaders of the party are now in a view that, once Rahul Gandhi’s decision is known, the party should go ahead with the organisational elections and elect a non-Gandhi. In the interim, there could be either an arrangement of collective leadership or a leader with proven abilities and logistical skills such as Kamal Nath or Bhupinder Singh Hooda to be made the chief. The younger leaders can participate in the elections and therefore would discover their actual standing within the party. The leaders who win these election hurdles can be thus shortlisted as future leaders.