Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge at the party plenary in Chhattisgarh
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge ahead of the party's Plenary Session in Raipur

Congress plenary in Chhattisgarh: No polls; Kharge to nominate CWC members

The Congress on Friday decided against holding elections to the Congress Working Committee (CWC). The decision came at the party’s Steering Committee meeting ahead of its Plenary Session at Nava Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said it was unanimously decided that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will be authorised to nominate all the CWC members. “This decision was taken keeping in mind the challenges we have in this country today and also those before the Congress,” he said. According to him, former prime ministers and party presidents will be given a place in the CWC. “This is also one of the amendments mooted by the panel in the party constitution,” he added.

Also read: Half of CWC must be elected, says Chidambaram; bats for young members

Majority against conducting elections

According to sources, a sizable chunk of Steering Committee members were not in favour of conducting CWC polls on grounds that it may not ensure equitable representation of leaders from different states, castes and communities. Some leaders also argued that the election will also create friction within the party which may prove counter-productive at a time when the Congress needs to focus on strengthening the organisation ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Chidambaram, Ajay Maken, Anand Sharma and some others were in favour of elections, contending that if the party can have elections for its highest post- that of the president – then why should it not have elections for the CWC.

Chidambaram bats for polls on half of seats

Chidambaram supported elections for at least 50 per cent of the CWC seats. Those backing elections said that the issue of equitable representation can be resolved easily as the Congress constitution allows the party president to nominate 12 members to the CWC and also nominate leaders in the permanent invitee and special invitee categories of CWC members.

Kharge can ensure proper regional, caste, community and gender representation through this nomination route while allowing elections for the remaining seats, argued those supporting CWC polls.

Also read: Will you contest CWC polls? Tharoor has a cryptic answer

Plenary Session agenda discussed

Later, Ramesh said over 45 members of the Steering Committee participated in meeting on Friday and discussed the agenda of the Plenary Session. At 4.30 pm, the subjects committee will have a meeting to discuss and vet 6 resolutions which will then be put for discussion at the plenary.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge will address the plenary at 10 am on Saturday and then former Congress president Sonia Gandhi will address the session. Subsequently, the plenary will take up the political, economic and international affairs resolutions for discussion between 1 and 7 pm. Day after, from 9.30 am the remaining resolutions – farmers, youth empowerment and social justice, will be taken up for discussion. Rahul Gandhi will address the plenary day after at 10.30 am.

Timing of Plenary Session critical: Kharge

Speaking at the Steering Committee meeting in Raipur, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the Plenary Session is happening at a time when half a dozen states are set to go for polls and the next Lok Sabha elections are just a year away.

“This is a big challenge for us but it is also a big opportunity…. Whatever message we send across from here today must strengthen the party. Therefore, I urge all of you to speak freely on all issues concerning the people so that a strong message is sent to the grassroots… There are many decisions that we have to take collectively on the issues that will directly impact our party and its future,” he said.

Also read: Kharge: Congress-led coalition will form next government at the Centre

Gandhis skip Steering Committee meeting

Kharge chaired the Steering Committee meeting. Former party presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as well as general secretary Priyanka Gandhi didn’t attend the meeting to signal that they have full faith in Kharge’s leadership and do not wish to influence the discussions, particularly on the question of CWC polls, in any way.

In August 2019, following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation from the post of party president and insistence for a non-Gandhi party president, the Gandhis had similarly skipped the CWC meeting that was convened to decide who would take over as party chief. The CWC had then endorsed Sonia as interim party chief.

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