'Cannot be part of consultation process': Sonia, Rahul won't nominate next Congress chief
It is also being said that a group of leaders may be authorised by the CWC to decide the new party chief after consulting workers, after which a second meeting will be called to approve the name.
NEW DELHI: The Congress Working Committee met on Saturday and began deliberations on finding the new party president through a consultative process that would involve all state unit chiefs and legislature party leaders.
According to sources, the CWC has decided to have consultations with leaders from across the country and the party's top decision-making body then was divided into five groups for different regions -- northeast, east, north, west and south.
The party's top brass, including Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, party general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Ahmed Patel, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and P Chidambaram, went into a huddle at the All India Congress Committee headquarters here.
Both Sonia and Rahul left the meeting midway, saying they couldn't be part of the process.
"Now consultation(to decide next party chief) is going on and naturally me and Rahul ji cannot be a part of it," Sonia said outside Congress headquarters here.
Rahul Gandhi left soon after, saying he would be visiting his parliamentary constituency Wayanad in Kerala, which is currently ravaged by heavy rains.
Sonia Gandhi said her name was included by default in the region-wise committees formed for wider consultations on selecting a new party chief.
"CWC asked Rahul Gandhi to remain party chief, but he refused. We argued Rahul is the best person to lead Congress when government attacking institutions, but he refused saying he will fight with workers. His resignation as Congress chief still under consideration, CWC to take a decision in the evening," said party's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
They are seeking to find a successor Rahul Gandhi who resigned as party chief on May 25 after the Congress' poll debacle, throwing the party into a leadership crisis.
Significantly, besides CWC members, several state unit chiefs of the party, including Congress' Rajasthan president Sachin Pilot and Punjab head Sunil Jakhar, as well as some other office bearers were present at the meeting.
All the CWC members have been assigned the task of holding consultations with state unit chiefs, legislative party leaders and heads of frontal organisations across the country.
They will hold these consultations in groups.
While the CWC group for the northeast region will be led by Arun Yadav, it will include top party leaders like Ambika Soni and Ahmed Patel.
The group for the eastern region will be led by Sushmita Dev and will include Sonia Gandhi and KC Venugopal.
The northern region group will be led by Rajni Patil and will include Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and P Chidambaram.
The western region group will be led by Gaurav Gogoi and will have Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, AK Antony and Motilal Vora.
The group for the southern region will be headed by Rajiv Satav and will include Manmohan Singh, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik as its members.
The consultations with state leaders would take place at the AICC headquarters, and would start soon after the CWC meeting, the sources said.
The top Congress leadership held a meeting on Friday with its state unit chiefs, leaders of its state legislature parties, general secretaries and in-charges, where they were told by Rahul Gandhi that the new party chief would be appointed within the next few days after wider consultations, sources said.
The meeting was held at the party's Gurdwara Raqab Ganj Road "war room" to discuss the government's decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir and divide the state into two Union territories.
The meeting comes after several senior party leaders such as Amarinder Singh, Karan Singh and Shashi Tharoor voiced concerns over lack of clarity on the leadership issue.
Senior Congress leaders also met Sonia Gandhi at her residence here on Friday.
Sources said senior leaders Ahmed Patel, A K Antony and K C Venugopal were learnt to have discussed with Gandhi certain names of probables, one of whom could be made the interim president of the party.
The names of senior Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik, Mallikarjun Kharge, as well as younger leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot are doing the rounds for the top post.
Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora earlier this week batted for either Scindia or Pilot to succeed Rahul Gandhi.
A number of partymen have expressed their opinion in public, saying the delay in selecting the new Congress chief is harming the party.
Last Sunday, Tharoor had said the Congress Working Committee or CWC should appoint an interim president immediately and then hold polls for the party chief's post as a leader elected by workers will be empowered and have more credibility.
Even though Rahul Gandhi had ruled out the possibility of a family member succeeding him, several leaders such as Punjab chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Tharoor have voiced support for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra throwing her hat in the ring.
The party has also been grappling with a series of desertions by leaders from Karnataka and Maharashtra, the latest being that of ex-Congress Rajya Sabha chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita and MP Sanjay Sinh.
Several leaders cited indecision and confusion within the rank and file of the party as a reason to quit.
The party is hoping to resolve the leadership issue and move forward quickly with assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana coming up.