A day after the Gandhis seemingly laid to rest the political saga weaved by Navjot Singh Sidhu, Congress’ Punjab in-charge, who ‘quit’ from the post last month in a huff over differences with his friend-turned-foe Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, they will chair a meeting of the party’s working committee to address another set of simmering troubles. Organisational elections, forthcoming assembly polls and the current political situation, including the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, will be on top of the agenda.
The first physical meeting of the Congress’ top decision-making body, Congress Working Committee (CWC), since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has been convened after demands from some quarters within the party to discuss important issues, including some defections in the recent past.
The meeting also comes amid rumblings within the Congress’ state units such as in Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan where the party is in power. The G-23 leaders have been demanding the convening of the CWC with Kapil Sibal last month wondering who in the party was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president and asserting that G23 leaders’ grouping is “not a Jee Huzur 23″. Former leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad had also written to the Congress president to convene a meeting of the CWC soon.
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During the meeting, the party leadership is also likely to decide on the schedule for electing the new Congress chief. The party in its CWC meeting held on January 22 had decided that the Congress would have an elected president by June 2021, but the same was deferred at the May 10 CWC meet in the wake of the COVID-19 situation.
The latest meeting is being held in the wake of the Lakhimpur Kheri clashes on October 3 in which eight people lost their lives, including four farmers who were allegedly run over by an SUV belonging to the convoy of Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar Mishra. Minister of State for Home Mishra’s son Ashish Mishra, who has been named in an FIR, was arrested on Saturday by the Uttar Pradesh Police in connection with the mowing down of the four farmers.
The incident has given enough ammo to the Congress to corner the BJP government and recapture the lost political space. The meeting is likely to discuss key issues such as price rise, farmers’ protests and the economic situation of the country.
The CWC meeting will also discuss certain dissenting notes rising within the party over the spate of defections and the party’s poor electoral fortunes. Congress chief ministers Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) and Charanjit Channi (Punjab) are expected to be present at the meeting.
Sonia Gandhi took over as the interim Congress president in August 2019 after Rahul Gandhi resigned in the wake of the party’s Lok Sabha debacle in May 2019. There have been demands from a section of Congress leaders for having a full-time and active party president as well as an organisational overhaul. The demand grew louder after a storm in the party in August last year over a letter to Sonia Gandhi by a group of 23 leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Hooda, Prithviraj Chavan, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Mukul Wasnik raising these issues.
(With PTI inputs)