Congress leaders meet, new party president to be in place in a few days

New Delhi: The new Congress president will be appointed within the next few days after consultations with the State leaders of the party, sources said on Friday, ahead of the crucial CWC meeting.

The top Congress leadership held a meeting with its State unit chiefs and leaders of its State legislature parties, along with its general secretaries and in-charges, where they were told by Rahul Gandhi that there was nothing to worry as regards the selection of the new party chief, who would be appointed within the next few days after wider consultations, the sources said.

Rahul Gandhi also told the leaders that he was happy to note that the party was under pressure to select its new chief and drew an analogy with a tiger, which maintained its ferocity under pressure. “I am happy that the Congress is under pressure and this will jolt the Congress into action,” Gandhi is learnt to have told the party leaders.

A meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will be held on Saturday morning to select the new party chief, after Gandhi quit the post. The sources said the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaders and departmental heads present at the meeting were told to hold back till Saturday for consultations on the selection of the new party chief.

The party general secretaries, in-charges and other CWC members would be asked to hold consultations in groups with PCC chiefs, CLP leaders and departmental heads separately and come out with a consensus as regards the name of the new Congress president, they added.

One of the PCC chiefs from a northern State told the meeting that certain names doing the rounds for the party president’s post were being propped up by vested corporate interests, the sources said. The PCC chief said the fact that the names of such leaders, who had enjoyed corporate patronage in the past, were being projected was bringing a bad name to the party and this should be resolved at the earliest.

The meeting was held at the Gurdwara Rakab Ganj road ‘war room’ of the Congress to discuss the government’s decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two Union territories.

The sources said Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, informed the leaders at the meeting about the government’s action in Jammu and Kashmir and told them about the party’s position on the issue.

He also told them about the CWC resolution deploring the manner in which the government took the decision on Jammu and Kashmir. Sources said UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, senior party leaders Azad, P Chidambaram, the chief ministers of Rajasthan and Puducherry – Ashok Gehlot and V Narayanasamy – were present at the meeting, among others.

Earlier in the day, senior Congress leaders met Sonia Gandhi at her residence here, ahead of Saturday’s crucial CWC meeting to decide on the new party chief. Sources said senior leaders Ahmed Patel, A K Antony and K C Venugopal were learnt to have discussed with Sonia Gandhi certain names of probables, one of whom could be made the provisional president of the party.

The names of senior Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge and some younger leaders are doing the rounds for the top post. The CWC might also form a panel of senior members to look for the new party president, the sources said.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said any further delay in the selection of the new party chief was not an option. “On Saturday, a consensus builder party President of Congress must be selected. Slightest delay is not an option,” he wrote on Twitter.

“In lighter vein, I gave analogy of wise men of Vatican locked in a room indefinitely until they got a nomination! Subsequently, it has to be followed by full intra party elections,” Singhvi added. A number of partymen have expressed their opinion in public, saying the delay in selecting the new Congress chief is harming the party.

Some Congressmen also made a call for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to take over from her brother Rahul Gandhi, who quit as the party chief on 25 May post the Congress’s poor show in the Lok Sabha polls.