As the Congress' steering committee started discussions on whether to hold elections for the party's working committee or not, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday urged the members to freely express themselves and take a collective call on the crucial decision.
The steering committee which replaced the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the top decision-making body of the party, started discussions at the beginning of the 85th plenary session here and approved the agenda for the three-day conclave, sources said.
Former presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have skipped the meeting and are likely to arrive later in the day. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also not present at the Steering Committee meet.
In his inaugural address, Kharge, on the CWC elections said, "As Congress president I want to just urge you to express yourself freely and take a decision collectively.Whatever decision you take, that will be my decision and of everyone".
Holding elections to the CWC is a key decision that the Steering Committee will take. The CWC has a total of 25 members, including the Congress president and the leader of the Congress in Parliament, 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 president to have a body of his choice to avoid any divisions.
In his opening remarks, the Congress chief said the plenary session is being held at a time when democracy and the Constitution are "under threat" and Parliamentary institutions are facing serious crisis and political activities being being put under scrutiny.
He said since 1885, there have been 84 sessions of the Congress party and this convention is very special as it marks 100 years since Mahatma Gandhi was elected the Congress president.
Several historic decisions have been taken at different plenary sessions and some have been milestones, he added.
As deliberations began for the crucial decision of CWC elections, members were equally divided on holding of elections and some saying CWC should be nominated.
The session, which comes in the backdrop of the Bharat Jodo Yatra that has been touted as a success by the party, will be attended by around 15,000 delegates.
Details of the three-day long session
Earlier, when asked whether polls will be held for the Congress Working Committee (CWC) seats, Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said on Thursday, "The steering committee will decide on it tomorrow. This matter will certainly come up during the steering committee meeting… I can't say anything about it today."
He, however, added that as per the party's constitution, the steering committee will decide on it.
"But we are ready for the (CWC) polls, all preparations have been made. If the decision is in favour of the polls, then elections will take place," Ramesh said at a press conference.
Giving details of the programme at the plenary, Ramesh had said there will be a meeting of the steering committee at 10 am today after which there will be a meeting of the subjects committee at 4 pm the same day in which six resolutions will be considered.
"These resolutions will be discussed on February 25 and 26. On February 25, resolutions related to political, economic and international matters will be discussed and on February 26, resolutions related to agriculture and farmers welfare; social justice and empowerment; and youth, employment and education will be discussed," Ramesh said.
On February 26, there will be a speech by the Congress President at 2 pm and a public meeting will be held at 4 pm, he had said.
The plenary session comes at a time when the Congress faces unprecedented challenges electorally and even to its primacy in the Opposition bloc.
While the Congress hopes to stitch an anti-BJP front for 2024 polls having said that it alone has the moral and the organizational power to lead it, clouds of disunity are hovering over it.
The TMC, BRS and AAP appear reluctant to accept the Congress stewardship and BRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao has been holding his own parleys to rein in the BJP.
(With PTI Inputs)