<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Marking a generation shift in the Congress, 47-year-old Rahul Gandhi will become party president next month, before the Guajrat Assembly poll results are out, with its apex decision-making body Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday finalising the organisational election schedule.The CWC meeting chaired by party chief Sonia Gandhi and attended by top leaders, including former PM Manmohan Singh, approved a 19-day organisational election schedule for the new Congress president, replacing Sonia, who has been at the helm for 20 years.The nomination process starts on December 1 and ends on December 4. The scrutiny of nominations is on December 5. The last date of nomination withdrawal is December 11.Congress Central Election Authority Chairman Mullappally Ramachandran said that “if needed”, polls will be held on December 16, whose results will be out on December 19. This is well before the deadline of December 31 set by the Election Commission for the Congress to hold its organisational polls.This brings a finality to Rahul’s elevation that has been in speculation since 2011. Rahul, then general secretary, was elevated as vice-president in 2013. The speculation about a takeover of the party by him has gained more currency since 2016.With no contestant in sight, Rahul can take over as early as on December 5 after scrutiny of nomination papers.Outside 10 Janpath, there were celebrations, on a day when a split in Hardik Patel’s camp was evident on the issue of aligning with the Congress and the NCP. Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala ruled out any “worry” in the Congress.There is a view in the Congress that the party will better its performance in Gujarat and possibly this is the best time to carry out the long-pending elevation.Rahul has been spearheading the campaign in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf and his meetings have been drawing good crowds.At the CWC meeting, Sonia gave some sort of a farewell speech, asking party cadres to do their best to bring out positive results in Gujarat.”Rahul and many of you colleagues here and in Gujarat are working hard for a positive result in that state. Let us do our best to prove that people are not fooled and that they will make the right decision and defeat the present dispensation there,” Sonia said.Replying to questions about Sonia’s next role amid speculation that she could continue as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party or as the head of an Opposition grouping like UPA, Surjewala merely said, “Sonia Gandhi is our leader and mentor. She has always guided the Congress party. Her able leadership will always be available not only to Rahul Gandhi but to the entire Congress.”Sonia had become Congress president on March 14, 1998. She donned the mantle of UPA chairperson on May 16, 2004.Rahul, a three-term Lok Sabha MP from family pocket borough Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, became AICC general secretary in September 2007, before he was elevated as Congress vice-president on January 19, 2013.Elections for the Congress president’s post have happened only twice. Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot had filed nominations against incumbent President Sitaram Kesri in 1997 and senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh Jitendra Prasada stood against incumbent Sonia in 2001. All the three had lost badly.The baton was already passed on to Rahul for all practical purposes. He has to revive the flagging fortunes of the Congress, which recorded its worst poll performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, wining only 44 seats. This followed a string of defeats in state polls.BJP spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri said that what the Congress calls internal democracy is a way to legitimise the clutches of Gandhi dynasty.
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