The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Election cloud on Cong poll

New Delhi, Feb. 12: The Congress organisational elections, due early next year, appear uncertain.

The party leadership is not sure whether the polls can be held in time owing to the crucial Assembly elections in November and the talk in political circles that the Vajpayee government might advance the Lok Sabha polls.

The three-year term of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and all elected party bodies expires at the end of this year. The validity of all primary and active members of the Congress, too, ends simultaneously. The process of electing a new organisational set-up, which takes three to four months, has to be completed by then. The last such election was held in late 2000.

Party sources say: “We have not yet applied our mind on holding the organisational polls.” Apart from the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, “there are also talks that the parliamentary elections which are due in September-October 2004 might be advanced to early next year. If that happens, it may not be possible to hold the organisational elections in time,” they say.

However, the AICC is understood to have directed all state Congress bodies to begin the membership enrolment drive. But, unlike past, no deadline has been set. Party general secretary in charge of AICC affairs Oscar Fernandes says the drive will continue till the end of the year.

The sources said all PCC presidents have been asked to submit a status report on the enrolment drive when they arrive in the capital for the three-day bloc Congress committee office bearers’ meet beginning March 28.

Strong indications, however, are that Sonia would turn the party’s attention on the critical elections rather than on the organisational polls. The block committee’s national convention itself is organised to give the wake-up call to grassroots leaders to prepare for the big poll battles. The Congress will also organise state-level conventions ahead of the national meet.

Moreover, the Congress chief is thinking about a reshuffle of her AICC set-up to put together a strong team to guide the party’s Assembly and Lok Sabha poll campaigns. Indications are that a heavyweight team will be announced soon after the current round of Assembly elections in four states. She is also in the process of effecting PCC leadership changes in several states.

It is yet to be seen whether the Congress president will also appoint a central election committee chairman to simultaneously set in motion the party organisational elections. Last time, Ram Niwas Mirdha held the post. Oscar Fernandes’ name is being mentioned for the job in party circles, though his continuance in the present position is considered important in the run-up to the big electoral battles.

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