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Party chief will be elected in ‘not too distant future’, Sonia Gandhi to remain interim president till then: Congress

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The Congress on Sunday sought to set at rest the speculation over extending the tenure of Sonia Gandhi as the party’s interim chief beyond August 10, saying she will continue to occupy the post till the process of electing a new president is completed.

A Congress functionary said the extension is a technical requirement as per the party constitution given that a regular president is yet to be elected. The party also has to inform the election commission of its decision as a prerequisite.

The party has maintained that the process of electing a new president could not be initiated due to the coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown enforced since March 25 to contain the pandemic.

“Soon after her appointment, there were assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana in October-November last year followed by polls in Jharkhand and Delhi. Then the Covid-19 struck,” added the functionary quoted above.

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) had named Sonia Gandhi as the party’s interim chief on August 10 last year after Rahul Gandhi refused to take back his resignation.

The CWC has powers to appoint a provisional president pending the election of a regular president by the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the party’s central unit comprising around 2000 members from across the country.

“Neither nature nor politics nor political parties permit or tolerate a vacuum. Just like nature abhors a vacuum, political parties cannot function in a vacuum. It is true that the tenure is expiring tomorrow (Monday). There is a laid down procedure in the constitution for elections,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, addressing a virtual news conference.

“In the meanwhile, if anybody is suggesting that the Congress will become headless on the stroke of midnight of August 10. Is it possible? Is that a fair interpretation of any constitution that August 10 midnight happens and the seat suddenly becomes vacant? Nobody can suggest that. No point giving simple views as they have to be in accord with common sense,” he added.

Singhvi said the process of electing a new party chief will be completed soon and till then Sonia Gandhi will remain at the helm.

“Sonia Gandhi ji is the president and she will continue till such time a proper procedure is implemented and it will be implemented in the not too distant future. It is as simple as that,” he said.

A veteran Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity that general secretary in-charge of organisation KC Venugopal will have to inform the election commission that the organisational polls could not be held due to certain reasons and till the time such process is completed Sonia Gandhi will continue to discharge her responsibilities as the party’s interim president.

The CWC can ratify this decision anytime, he added.

“There is a process that goes to the CWC and the AICC and this will start anytime and you will get the results soon. We are bound by our party constitution,” added Singhvi.

In the run-up to the August 10 deadline, some sections of the Congress had started demanding that Rahul Gandhi return to the post he gave up in May 2019, owning responsibility for the party’s rout in the general elections.

He was elected the Congress president in December 2017 for five years till 2022.

Congress leaders say that while Rahul Gandhi is not keen to accept that responsibility in the immediate future, Sonia Gandhi is also unwilling to continue in the post for long.

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