New Delhi, Feb 25: The more things change in the Congress party, the more they remain the same. Nothing exemplifies it more than the decision at the ongoing plenary session of the party in Raipur yesterday not to hold elections to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the powerful policy-making body.
When Mallikarjun Kharge was elected President of the party recently, he was hailed as the first non-Gandhi to occupy the top post after nearly three decades of stewardship of the first family.
Hopes soared about democratizing the party set up by holding elections to various organs like the CWC, the Central Election Committee and many other forums down the line. They were dashed unmistakably when the steering committee of the party yesterday decided against holding elections to the CWC. Top leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, had publicly stated earlier that the way to rejuvenate the party was to hold democratic elections to all party forums.
Kharge’s election as President was preceded by what can be loosely termed as a revolt in a section of the Congress subsequently known as G-23. It resulted in the Gandhis keeping out of the presidential contest. It was widely believed that the Gandhis would shun from the CWC elections as well, thereby giving free hand to Kharge.
What happened at the plenary was just the opposite. The steering committee amended rules to include in the nominated CWC all the former party presidents as also the former PMs. By virtue of this amendment, both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi become members of the CWC. So is former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In effect, the most powerful party forum (CWC) will continue to be dominated by the Gandhi family members.
Questions are bound to be raised on Kharge’s free hand in running the party organisation now. The decision to authorise the party president to nominate all CWC members, in effect, means giving power to the Gandhi family through back door in all these appointments. It is, therefore, back to square one. Kharge, anyway, had declared after the election that he would continue to seek guidance from Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.
The arguments proferred for not holding the CWC elections were entirely specious. It was argued that holding elections would mean bickering and infighting among party leaders at a time when unity was needed on eve of state polls and the next year’s national elections. Such situations will arise whenever party elections will be held. This is running away from realities and, by implication, deferring the party’s crucial issues. This will only weaken the party in the long run. According to reports, leaders like Digvijay Singh and Ajay Maken, both considered close to Rahul Gandhi, had pushed for an election to CWC while the likes of Anand Sharma, a G23 member, and P.Chidambaram acquiesced to no poll.
All attention will now be riveted upon who all get the CWC nomination. In all likelihood, it would be a combination of the experienced old hands and the energetic and promising young brigade. What would make a major difference is 50 per cent reservation for SC/ST, minorities and women. The charge against Rahul was that he wanted to stuff the party with younger leaders alone.