The re-constitution of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is likely to be held after the Karnataka Assembly elections, although there is a section within the Congress which wants the announcement of the new CWC to take place earlier, preferably immediately after the ongoing session of Parliament ends. Informed sources told The Sunday Guardian that the leadership was inclined to wait till the Karnataka elections, while taking into account the eagerness of party workers to re-constitute the CWC at an early date.
A senior Congress leader said, “The decision is pending with the person who has been entrusted with the job. The announcement will be made as and when the person in charge deems fit. It is an important task which involves important people, so finalising the list is taking time.”
The re-constitution of the new CWC, which is the highest decision making body of the Congress, can prove to be difficult for the party’s newly elected president Rahul Gandhi. Speculation was that the Congress would announce the new CWC at the plenary that took place last week. The 84th plenary was the first ever to be held after Rahul Gandhi took charge of the Congress, where senior members of the party unanimously gave him the power to select members of the new CWC. By giving unhindered power to the Congress president to select his own team of 24 core members, Congress members bypassed the alternative route of conducting elections for a new CWC.
Congress leaders explain that the Constitution of the Congress makes its president an extremely powerful person, which is why it is preferred by party members to let the president choose his or her own team—this has happened in the past under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership. Hence, hand-picking a new CWC poses a grave challenge for Rahul Gandhi, who has been vocal about his intention to bring “new faces” in the Congress spotlight.
The former CWC, which was dissolved by Rahul Gandhi before the plenary in order to constitute a new one under a new president, had a total of 37 Congress leaders, out of which 19 were members, 14 were permanent invitees and four were special invitees, as stated in the 21st edition of the Congress directory last published in 2016. Out of 37, five were women, including former president of Congress Sonia Gandhi.
According to Article 19 of the Constitution of the Congress, “The working committee shall consist of the president of Congress, leader of the Congress in Parliament and 23 other members of whom 12 will be elected by the All India Congress Committee (AICC), as per rules prescribed by the Working Committee and the rest shall be appointed by the president.” After the plenary, it is evident that since the AICC members gave Rahul Gandhi complete power to choose his team, there will be no elections in the democratic sense of the word.
Currently crowded by the old guard, Rahul Gandhi’s challenge is to bring in younger people in the CWC, without much rancour. While the Congress is keeping a tight lid over the names of the new CWC, observers feel that the in-charges of states where Congress has performed poorly in the recent elections might not be able to retain their seats in CWC.
Since Rahul Gandhi has also placed “women’s empowerment” on his agenda, this has led to speculation on how many female members the new CWC will welcome, given that the previous CWC had only three females out of 19 members. As far as the case of special invitees and permanent invitees is concerned, Congress keeps these positions for those who could not be inducted into the core working committee, but are relevant faces for the party.
Congress’ Constitution for the selection of non-AICC members into CWC instructs: “Ordinarily members of the Working Committee will be appointed from among the members of the AICC, but in special cases, delegates who are not members of the AICC may be appointed, provided, however, that a delegate so appointed shall cease to be a member of the Working Committee if he is not elected as member of the AICC within six months of his appointment.”