The Congress Working Committee will meet on Sunday to approve the schedule of dates for the election of the next party president.
The announcement comes amid speculation over the next party chief and the resignation of veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday that triggered Gandhis' loyalists' offensive against him as he had blasted Rahul Gandhi by calling him immature and childish and blaming his and his mother Sonia Gandhi's leadership for the party's downfall.
Sources told PTI that the CWC is also expected to express confidence in the leadership provided by Sonia and Rahul. Notably, it was the Gandhis that Azad had targeted in his resignation letter, saying that a coterie of sycophants of Gandhis run the party as senior leaders are sidelined. Azad also lashed out at Rahul for "demolishing its entire consultative mechanism".
The Congress, dealing with the fallout of a series of high profile exits, including that of Kapil Sibal and Ashwani Kumar, attempted to deflect the latest blow by alleging that Azad's DNA had been "Modi-fied" and linking his resignation to the end of his Rajya Sabha tenure.
Ahead of the CWC meeting, to be held virtually at 3:30 PM with Sonia presiding over it, party sources had said the process of the election of the president will be delayed by a few weeks, not more than that, and the party should have a full-time president in October.
The Congress had announced in October last year that the election of the new party president will be held between August 21 and September 20 this year.
The CWC had decided that elections for block committees and one member each of state Congress units will be held from April 16 to May 31, district committee chiefs will be elected between June 1 and July 20, state chiefs and AICC members between July 21 and August 20, and AICC president between August 21 and September 20.
Sources had also said the election of the Congress president is likely to be delayed by a few weeks with the party focused on the Kanyakumari to Kashmir 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' starting September 7 and some state units not completing formalities.
With Sonia abroad for medical checkups and Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accompanying her, they will join the CWC meeting virtually.
The meeting comes amid several leaders, including Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, having publicly exhorted Rahul to return as the party chief. However, uncertainty and suspense continue on the issue. Several party insiders say Rahul Gandhi is persisting with his stance that he will not be the AICC president.
Gehlot on Wednesday had sought to play down reports about him being the frontrunner for the Congress president's post and said efforts will be made till the last minute to persuade Rahul to take over the reins of the party again.
Gehlot's remarks had come a day after he met Congress chief Sonia, triggering the buzz that the two may have discussed the possibility of him being the next party president.
Rahul had resigned as Congress president after the party suffered its second consecutive defeat in parliamentary elections in 2019. Sonia took over the reins of the party again as interim president but she had also offered to quit in August 2020 after an open revolt by a section of leaders, referred to as G-23, but the CWC had urged her to continue.
Azad highlighted this pattern of continued defeats under the Gandhis in his resignation letter.
"Under your [Sonia's] stewardship since 2014 and subsequently that of Shri Rahul Gandhi, the INC has lost two Lok Sabha elections in a humiliating manner. It has lost 39 out of the 49 assembly elections held between 2014-2022. The Party only won four state elections and was able to get into a coalition situation in six instances. Unfortunately, today, the INC is ruling in only two states and is a very marginal coalition partner in two other states," said Azad in his resignation letter to Sonia.
(With PTI inputs)