Tuesday was an important day for the Congress. A lot of issues were discussed in the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of the party.
Apart from releasing a schedule for the organisational elections which entail election of Congress president by 15 October, the Grand Old Party also criticised the government on a variety of issues like demonetisation and economic growth.
Rahul Gandhi's possible elevation
Party sources told IANS that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is likely to be elevated as party chief at the culmination of party's organisatonal polls in October. They said Congress president Sonia Gandhi may step down ahead of Rahul's likely elevation.
The Congress had deferred the organisational elections after Sonia's five-year term as party chief ended in 2015.
Sonia became party chief in 1998 and is the longest-serving party president.
There have been demands from within the party that Rahul, who became its vice-president in 2013, should take over party reigns from his mother Sonia.
But the Congress faced a series of electoral reverses after its debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which Rahul was the party's lead campaigner.
Even as the party has faced mounting electoral challenges, its poor electoral run has led to repeated speculation about the timing of Rahul's elevation.
Party sources also told IANS that Rahul's likely elevation will mark a generational change as it prepares for the the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The likely elevation will be weeks before the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat where the Congress faces tough challenge from the BJP.
Sources said the likely elevation at the end of organisational elections will also fit in with Rahul's emphasis on fostering internal democracy in the party. Sonia has also been dealing with some health issues of late.
In her remarks at the CWC meeting, Sonia said the ongoing organisational elections must be completed with utmost speed and sincerity.
According to the election schedule, Congress membership drive has be completed by 15 May and election of presidents of booth committees by 20 August.
Elections of block Congress chiefs, members of district Congress committees and members of pradesh Congress committees has to be concluded by 4 September.
The elections of president, vice-president, treasurer and executive panel of district Congress committees has to be completed by 15 September and that of these posts in the pradesh Congress committees (PCC) by 15 October.
Elections of All India Congress Committee members by the respective PCCs and of the Congress president also has to be concluded by 15 October.
According to the schedule, members of the CWC will be elected by AICC members at the party plenary, for which dates will be decided later.
Sonia Gandhi on presidential elections, party performance
With presidential elections round the corner, Sonia said it was essential that the person who gets elected to the high office protects the Constitution.
"In a few weeks, we will be electing the president and vice president of our republic. In times such as these, it is even more essential that those who occupy this office protect the Constitution," she said, addressing the CWC meeting.
Sonia said that she met the leaders of like-minded parties to find commonly acceptable candidates for these high offices with former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and some other colleagues.
A subgroup of representatives has been constituted to take this forward, she said.
Referring to the next Lok Sabha election, she said, "We are not far from the 2019 election. We must be ready to protect the essence and idea of India, which this government is seeking to extinguish."
She said the recently held Assembly elections hold vital lessons for the party both in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
"With an energised cadre and effective leadership, we were able to defeat a sitting NDA government in Punjab, but in Manipur and Goa we failed to convert our winning numbers into forming a government. This outcome reminds us that the BJP will use their enormous resources and muscle power to steal mandates from us, just as they did in Arunachal Pradesh and earlier in Uttarakhand. We cannot let this happen again," the Congress president said.
Towards this end, Sonia said the party organisation must be strengthened.
"The ongoing organisational elections must be completed with the utmost speed and sincerity. The schedule for organisational elections has been determined and will come up before the CWC for approval," she said.
Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi said the country's growth has slowed down mainly due to demonetisation and the economy was running on just one engine of public spending, according to PTI.
Sonia talked about the failure of demonetisation, saying it has affected the country's growth.
She highlighted that Singh had predicted a fall in growth due to the note ban announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November last year.
She said the GDP figures proved that the former prime minister's forecast that demonetisation would slow down economic growth was correct.
Singh, in his intervention at the meeting, talked about the decline in the economic growth as depicted in the last quarter GDP numbers.
He said the slowdown was primarily due to demonetisation and expressed serious concern over the situation, particularly the impact of the growth slowdown on job creation.
The former prime minister, an acclaimed economist himself, said the Gross Value Addition (GVA) is the true sub-measure of economic activity and it has experienced a steep and sustained fall.
"Private sector investment has collapsed and the economy is running on just one engine of public spending," he said at the meeting.
Singh said the GVA growth of industry has fallen from 10.7 percent in March 2016 to just 3.8 percent in March 2017, a decline of nearly seven percentage points of growth.
"The most worrisome aspect of all this is the impact on job creation. Jobs have been extremely hard to come by for the youth of the nation," he said.
Sonia in her speech said, "The government's experiments and policies are characterised by poor planning and shoddy implementation. They have been disastrous for our social and economic fabric."
She said demonetisation was touted as a great success, but till today, the government refuses to disclose how much of the demonetised currency in circulation was actually returned to banks.
"It isn't that the Reserve Bank of India has forgotten how to count money; it is that the actual numbers show that the scheme was a disaster," she said.
Sonia also attacked the 'Make in India' campaign saying it failed to create jobs or attract investment and unemployment was rampant in the country.
The former prime minister noted that the construction industry, which is one of the largest employment generators in the country, has suffered contraction.
This, he said, "implies loss of millions of jobs for the nation's workforce".
At the party briefing after the CWC meet, senior spokesperson Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress had raised the issue of demonetisation both outside and inside Parliament.
Azad said Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said that note ban will have a bad effect on the economy and will affect GDP.
"But the government rejected all our claims and it has to now admit within a year that the GDP has suffered a loss and how much loss the country has to suffer in last three years," said the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 07, 2017 08:38 AM