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National

Election or nomination? Cong divided over CEC

February 08, 2021 05:08 AM

COURTESY HT FEB 8

Election or nomination? Cong divided over CEC
Sunetra Choudhury

letters@hindustantimes.com

NEW DELHI : As more details of Friday’s Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting emerged, it is now clear that the new bone of contention between party leaders who in August called for an overhaul of the organisation and staunch loyalists of the leadership is a demand that members of the Central Election Committee (CEC) be elected, not nominated.

HT has spoken to several delegates who attended the meeting, including signatories to the letter written in August to interim chief Sonia Gandhi in which they demanded a “full-time and effective” leadership that is “visible” and “active.” The people, who requested anonymity, confirmed that the schedule for elections to the post of president and CWC members was accepted, but a spat ensued when the demand was voiced for even CEC members to be elected..

The demand was articulated by Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, his deputy Anand Sharma, and former finance minister P. Chidambaram, who wasn’t a signatory to the original letter, but supported elections to the CEC, the people said. They said CEC members should be chosen by the same electoral college that takes part in the election of the president.

The CEC, headed by Sonia Gandhi, selects the party’s candidates to all elections and so is a very powerful body. At present, its members include Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior leaders AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik, KC Venugopal, Mohsina Kidwai, Girija Vyas, Janardan Dwivedi, M Veerappa Moily and Oscar Fernandes.

The opposition to the proposal was initially in the form of a healthy debate. Antony opposed the proposal in what one letter writer described as a “sober manner.” Soni asked if an election to the CEC would require an amendment to the Congress’s constitution and Sharma clarified that it didn’t.

It was around that point of time that Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot used “harsh words” against the letter writers to their shock. Speaking in Hindi, Gehlot is learnt to have questioned the need for the 23 leaders to send such a letter in the first place. “Nobody even knows your name, nobody recognises you,’’ Gehlot is learnt to have said. To which Sharma responded: “I don’t have any identity but that of the Indian National Congress. And it’s because of that our face and name are known. And that’s why you are also known. Nobody has given you the authority to insult your colleagues.’’

Rahul Gandhi then intervened. “I can understand the emotion that Ashok Gehlot had expressed (his views with) and what he was feeling, but at the same time I agree with Anand Sharma ji and feel that harsh words should never have been spoken,” people who attended the meeting quoted him as saying. HT reached out to CM Gehlot’s office, but received no response. A Congress spokesperson denied that there had been any harsh exchange of words at the meeting.

 
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