New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi's first big attempt at internal change since taking over as Congress president is facing resistance from party seniors.
- Rahul Gandhi wants elections to the Congress Working Committee posts
- Former party chief Sonia Gandhi preferred to nominate all the members
- Old guard says Rahul Gandhi should have free hand to choose members
Soon after he took over as Congress president in December, the 47-year-old had made it clear that he intended to hold elections to the 12 positions in the party's highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee or CWC, but the veterans are believed to be against the idea and want the system of nominations to continue.
Rahul Gandhi's predecessor and mother Sonia Gandhi preferred to nominate all the members of the CWC during her 19 years as party chief, though the rule-book prescribes elections.
The Congress' constitution says 10 members of the CWC are to be elected by delegates and the party president can nominate another 10. The committee must have at least 20 members; it often includes more as permanent invitees.
According to sources, Congress's senior leaders argue that elections were held in the party in 1992 and 1997, when leaders weren't ready to accept the leadership of chiefs like PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri and forced an election as a show of strength.
With no real challenge to Rahul Gandhi and his leadership, the old guard says, he should have a free hand to choose members to head the party's highest forum.
Whether to hold elections or not will finally be decided in the Congress session to be held next week but senior leaders have started a campaign and are trying to rally support for their view that Rahul Gandhi should nominate members to the CWC, instead of holding an election.
The party is also bringing in a constitutional change to bring in fresh faces by introducing a clause to have at least 25 per cent fresh faces in every party structure from the CWC downwards.
Rahul Gandhi, keen on recharging the grand old party in his own way, has favoured elections for all party organisations he directly handled as Congress vice president, like the students' wing NSUI and the Youth Congress. An election process was also followed when he became party president, but it was mocked by critics as a "sham" as there were no real challengers.