- Election Commission writes firm letter to Congress
- Internal party elections must be completed by July 15
- Rahul Gandhi's replacing mother Sonia as chief is tricky
India's oldest party last voted for key posts and members of committees in 2010.
Sonia Gandhi has served as the party's top boss since 1998. In 2013, her son, Rahul Gandhi, was named Vice President. The Congress' main decision-making body, its Working Committee, has been filled with members who were nominated, rather than elected. In 2015, the party announced elaborate plans to hold organisational polls but then these kept getting delayed till now. The EC has said it cannot delay any further.
But sources say there is more to it than just this. One of the conundrums for the Congress is how to deal with the promotion of Rahul Gandhi, 46, to top boss. Sonia Gandhi is unwell and missed large chunks of the winter session of parliament; Rahul Gandhi led the party's strategy and campaign attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his abrupt demonetisation drive. Though Congress leaders repeatedly parrot that his ascension to President is a given accepted, even urged, happily by the party, sources say there are concerns over the timing of the elevation. Mr Gandhi is leading the Congress campaign in the strategically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, where the party is the junior player in an alliance with Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. The UP result will be seen as the latest referendum on Mr Gandhi's leadership and an important one given the movement of his mother to the background. In fact, it was her daughter Priyanka Gandhi who managed the tricky negotiations with Akhilesh Yadav, another sign that the Congress' 70-year-old chief is removing herself from the frontline.