- The voting for a new Congress chief was to take place on June 23
- June 7 was set as the deadline for nominations for the party top post
- Sources say the decision to seek a delay due to COVID-19 was unanimous
Citing the Covid crisis, the Congress today put off one of its toughest and longest-delayed decisions -- the election of a new party president to take over from interim chief Sonia Gandhi.
The Congress's election body had recommended that voting for a party chief can take place on June 23 and the deadline for nominations could be June 7.
But the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's top decision-making body, said the elections should be deferred given the COVID-19 crisis.
The decision to seek a delay was "unanimous", said sources. "In view of the nationwide emergent conditions prevailing on account of the unprecedented Corona pandemic, the CWC was unanimous that all our energies should be channelized towards saving every life and helping every Covid affected person. The CWC, therefore, unanimously resolved to defer the elections temporarily in the midst of these challenging times," said a Congress resolution after the meeting, which featured Priyanka Gandhi Vadra but not Rahul Gandhi, who was said to be unwell.
A new chief has been at the core of turmoil since the Congress's 2019 general election debacle but India's oldest party, led by members of the Nehru-Gandhi family for much of its history, has procrastinated on the decision.
The election of the next chief is meant to mark the Gandhis' break from Congress's leadership amid rumblings in the ranks caused by a series of defeats.
Rahul Gandhi, who took over the post from mother Sonia Gandhi in 2017, stepped down after the Lok Sabha polls owning responsibility for the Congress's second straight defeat. He also suggested in a long resignation note that it was time for a non-Gandhi to take charge.
But the Congress failed to zero in on a replacement and, after months of uncertainty, urged Sonia Gandhi - who has been unwell - to return as interim chief.
Sonia Gandhi agreed to take over until a replacement was found, but there has been no sign of the interim arrangement ending anytime soon.
Last year, 23 Congress leaders and MPs called for collective decision-making and visible leadership in a letter that was seen to question the Gandhis' style of functioning and the party's perceived leadership drift.
In January, months after the Congress's abysmal performance in Bihar and a fresh round of public bickering between members of the "G-23" and Gandhi loyalists, the party said a new Congress chief would be elected in June after the state elections.
The latest state elections have only emphasized the Congress's state of disarray, but while talking of introspection, the party has again stalled the decision.
Rahul Gandhi has been taking the lead in the Congress's attacks on the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi but he has emphatically refused to return as Congress president. Today, he was not present at the CWC meeting as he is said to be still unwell after his Covid infection.