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No CWC polls: Steering committee authorises Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge to nominate members

NEW DELHI: The Congress Steering Committee unanimously decided on Friday not to hold the CWC polls and authorised party chief Mallikarjun Kharge to nominate its members, at a key meeting that was skipped by the members of the Gandhi family.

The party also proposed an amendment to its constitution to include the former Congress prime ministers and former AICC chiefs as permanent members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), a move that would ensure the automatic inclusion of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the party’s highest decision-making body.

The inclusion of the leaders of the Congress in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the CWC has also been proposed. The number of members of the CWC will rise from the current 25 once these amendments are approved.

At its 85th plenary session, the Congress is set to amend its constitution to provide a 50-per cent reservation to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), women, youngsters and minorities at all levels, including in the CWC, party general secretary Jairam Ramesh told a press conference after the steering committee meeting.

A key amendment in the party’s constitution proposes to ensure that the members abstain from consuming any psychotropic substances or drugs and propagate against the use of such substances, sources said. Some leaders also want an amendment to the constitution relating to prohibiting consumption of alcohol by the members.

Ramesh said the decision to authorise the party chief to nominate the CWC members was taken by a committee led by Kharge in view of the country’s prevailing political situation and the proposed amendment to give a 50-per cent representation to women, SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and youngsters in the CWC.

”The Congress steering committee decided unanimously to empower the Congress president to nominate the members of the CWC. We had a two-and-a-half-hour discussion on the issue and the dominant, overwhelming view was to authorise the party chief to nominate the members, keeping in mind the political challenges facing the country and the party and considering the far-reaching amendments that we are going to bring about in our constitution,” the former Union minister told reporters.

He said 16 articles and 32 rules are set to be amended, the most important of which is to provide a 50-per cent reservation to SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, women and youngsters in the working committee.

One of the amendments to be brought in the party constitution says: ”Among the 23 members of the Congress Working Committee (other than the president of the Congress and the chairperson of the Congress parliamentary party, the Congress prime ministers/former prime ministers, the leaders of the Congress party in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and former presidents of the Congress party), it shall be ensured that 50 per cent reservation is given to SCs/STs/OBCs/minorities/youth and women.” Another proposed amendment said 50 per cent of all the delegates and office-bearers in the mandal, block, city, district and pradesh Congress committees shall be reserved for SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities, and half of them shall be SCs and STs.

”Additionally, there shall be 50 per cent reservation for persons below 50 years of age as also women, both in the reserved categories as also in the unreserved category in the remaining 50 per cent,” the proposed amendment says.

”There will be discussions on this during the plenary and we are confident that they will (be passed). Amendments are being made in 16 provisions and in 32 rules,” Ramesh said.

He said the committee freely discussed the CWC polls and all the 45 members present unanimously decided to authorise the Congress president to nominate the working committee members.

Several members expressed their views both in favour and against the polls, he said, adding that the final decision was unanimous.

”We are fully confident that all AICC and PCC delegates will support this unanimous decision,” Ramesh said.

Most leaders raised both hands in support of the decision on the CWC polls, he said, stressing that it showed the depth of the unanimity.

Former party presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi skipped the meeting. They arrived here in the afternoon and were welcomed by senior party leaders at the airport. Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also not present at the steering committee meet and is expected to arrive later.

The sources said the absence of the Gandhis from the steering committee meet was aimed at ensuring ”free and fair” discussions.

Earlier, Kharge urged the steering committee members to freely express themselves and take a collective call on the process of picking the CWC members.

In his inaugural address, Kharge said, ”As the Congress president, I want to urge you to express yourself freely and take a decision collectively. Whatever decision you take will be my decision and of everyone.” The CWC currently has 25 members, including the Congress president and the leader of the Congress parliamentary party, besides 12 elected members and 11 nominated ones.

The tradition in the party has been to have a consensus body and the committee gives the right to the Congress chief to have a body of his choice to avoid any division.

In his opening remarks, Kharge said the plenary session is being held at a time when democracy and the Constitution are ”under threat”, parliamentary institutions are facing serious crisis and political activities are under scrutiny.

He said since 1885, there have been 84 sessions of the Congress and this convention is very special as it marks 100 years since Mahatma Gandhi was elected the party president.

Several historic decisions have been taken at different plenary sessions of the party and some have been milestones, Kharge pointed out.

He also recalled the success of the Bharat Jodo Yatra organised by the party. The Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir foot march has infused fresh energy in the party’s rank and file and highlighted the issues of price rise, unemployment and other economic challenges, he added.

”We have to carry forward that enthusiasm,” Kharge said.

He noted that this plenary session of the party is being held in Chhattisgarh ahead of Assembly elections in half-a-dozen states and the 2024 parliamentary polls.

”There is a big challenge as well as a big opportunity before us,” the Congress chief said.

Source: Press Trust of India

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