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Congress president election: Bouquets for Rahul, party comes out in defence after BJP brickbat

Congress holds press meet
The Congress election committee chairman addressed the media on Monday afternoon. The party said if there are nominations other than that of Rahul Gandhi, an election will be conducted. Otherwise, the party vice president will be elevated to the post of the president, which is held by his mother Sonia Gandhi.

The opposition party stressed its selection process was transparent. In the face of criticism over the election process, the party also questioned PM Narendra Modi about the selection process of the BJP president.

Sonia Gandhi signs first nomination paper
Congress president Sonia Gandhi signed on Monday as the first proposer on the first nomination paper submitted for the election of her son and party vice President Rahul Gandhi to the post of party chief.

Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said Sonia Gandhi’s signatures were at the top of the first nomination form submitted to the returning officer Mullappally Ramachandran in the election being held at the party’s central office to elect the party’s next chief.

“She (Sonia Gandhi) has signed. Her signatures are the first on the first proposal (nomination form) submitted for Rahul Gandhi,” Gehlot told Aaj Tak news channel.

A good sign, says Farooq
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah said: “This is a good sign that the young brigade is stepping forward. I hope he takes India to great heights where everyone lives with harmony. The post of PM lies in distant future, for now he must work hard to unite India and bring everyone together.”

Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma said: “Best wishes to @OfficeOfRG as he files nomination papers for the election of @INCIndia Presidentship.”

Congratulating the incumbent vice president, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu said: “Rahul bhai is special, Congress is the trust of the country.”

Criticism follows
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “I congratulate the Congress on their ‘Aurangzeb Raj.’ For us, the well-being of the people matters and 125 crore Indians are our high command.”

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said: “Congress has become a burden on this nation. Now it would be good if after Rahulji’s elevation this burden is removed once and for all.”

Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan said: “He (Rahul Gandhi) is the owner of the party. His elevation and nomination are their personal matter. They are forced to make this arrangement (election) because of the regulations of EC. However, no democracy is left inside such a big party.”

Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar said in defence: “…during Mughal rule it was understood that after Jehangir, Shahjahan will be the leader. But here anyone is free to contest against Rahul Gandhi, it’s a totally democratic process.”

More praises
Congress leader Raj Babbar congratulated Rahul Gandhi. “Your Honesty & Simplicity as a leader has always inspired us. Under your leadership, we are sure our party will be a bigger vehicle of change & well-being for the people of India,” he said in a message retweeted by the Congress.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: “As @OfficeOfRG files his nomination to take over the Grand Old Party of India I wish him all the very best going ahead. Expectations are high, challenges are numerous & I pray for his success.”

Poonawalla ups ante
Shehzad Poonawalla, a Congress leader from Maharashtra who has vowed to continue his fight against “dynasty politics”, said: “My sources tell me that a dummy candidate will be fielded so that it appears like an election…But now you can’t fool people.”

In the run-up to the election that is expected to elevate Gandhi to the party’s top post, Poonawalla has kicked up a storm by raising questions over the process. He has alleged that party spokesperson Manish Tewari had told him that the Congress was a “proprietorship” like every other political party in India.

Manmohan praises Rahul
Former PM Manmohan Singh says Rahul Gandhi is a darling of the Congress and he will carry forward the great traditions of the party, reports news agency ANI.

Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah meets Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi at the AICC headquarters.

Leaders react
Congress leader Karan Singh tells ANI: “Soniaji took Congress to new heights. We won many elections under her leadership and now it is time for Rahul Gandhi to take the party forward.”

Kamal Nath says: “Do BJP presidents get elected? Did Nitin Gadkari get elected through a ballot process? Let them answer that first.”

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh says: “If you ask me, I think he will make a very good Prime Minister.”
Mere formality?
The 47-year-old’s election to the post is a mere formality as nobody else from the party has filed their nominations yet. All top leaders, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, are expected to propose his name for the post. About 50-55 sets of nomination papers from all states are expected to be filed on his behalf.

As per the Congress constitution, it is not necessary for Rahul to personally file the nominations. Ten Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates are required to seek his consent on the nomination papers.Rahul’s nomination papers will then be submitted before the Central Election Authority (CEA), a party panel that is overseeing the organisational polls.

Election schedule
While the notification for the elections was issued on Friday, nominations were to be filed till Monday, with the last date of withdrawal being December 11. Polling, if necessary, will be held on December 16, while counting of votes will be taken up on December 19. Though the formal results will be declared on December 11, the outcome will be known on the day of scrutiny of papers on December 5 itself if no other nomination is filed. Rahul will be handed over a certificate on December 11, the day a function has been planned at the Congress headquarters in Delhi.

Fresh start
This will mark the end of the organisational polls in the Congress, which had to complete the entire process by December 31 as per the deadline set by the Election Commission. The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, is also expected to be reconstituted soon.

According to the Congress constitution, the president enjoys a three-year term starting from his/her appointment during the session. During the interim period of election and formal appointment at the plenary, the person acts as the president-elect.

Rahul’s election will herald a new era in the 132-year-old party and bring down the curtains on the long tenure of Sonia Gandhi. He will be the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the post. The 70-year-old Sonia holds the record of being the Congress chief for more than 19 consecutive years after taking over from Sitaram Kesri in March 1998.

During her entire tenure, Sonia had to face contest only once. She defeated Jitendra Prasada, who had served as political advisor to former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narasimha Rao, in a one-sided contest on November 9, 2000.

The last organisational elections in the Congress were held in 2010 when Sonia was elected party president for the fourth term.

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