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Congress announces organisational poll schedule

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New Delhi: Amid a raging debate over Rahul Gandhi’s prolonged absence, Congress today came out with a schedule for organisational elections under which the next Congress President will be elected by September 30.

The schedule,  finalised by the party’s Central Election Authority,  has been released at a time when speculation refuses to die down over the sabbatical of the Congress Vice President and when he would be back after ‘introspection’ in the wake of a series of electoral debacles.

There had been speculation that Rahul could be anointed any time as Congress President but his going on leave just on the eve of the commencement of the budget session last month has raised questions over his future plans.

Posters have appeared in  parts of Uttar Pradesh including Gandhi’s constituency Amethi requesting him to come home.

Party leaders have said umpteen times that Rahul will be back in the “proximate future” but has given no specific date.

A highlight of the new schedule is that for the first time, party polls will be held in two phases, first phase covering 18 states and Union territories and the second phase almost equal number of states and Union territories.

The Congress chief will be elected by September 30.

Interestingly, the party elections will be over by July 31 in 18 states including Gujarat, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and a host of states in North-east in the first phase.

The second phase will cover Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Telangana.

Sonia Gandhi has created a record of having the longest tenure at the helm of the oldest political party when she completed 17 years as Congress President on March 14.

She took the top party post amid a complete collapse in 1998, replacing the late Sitaram Kesri at a time when the party had faced a crisis with the BJP on the ascendance.

The organisational polls come a year after the the Congress has faced its worst debacle in the Lok Sabha polls last year after 10 years in power. It could manage just 44 seats in the polls.

The election schedule also comes in the midst of talk that sooner, rather than later, Sonia Gandhi will pass the mantle to her son Rahul Gandhi, who was made the Congress Vice President in January 2013 at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir.

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