The Congress party on Sunday said that the election to pick its next president will be held on October 17. The result will be declared two days later.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee at the party headquarters in New Delhi. It was chaired virtually by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi from abroad.

The meeting comes two days after the exit of Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was one of the longest-serving general secretaries of the party.

In his resignation letter, Azad had accused Rahul Gandhi of being immature and described the election process as a farce and an attempt to foist a “non-serious individual” to be at the helm of the Congress.

In July 2019, Rahul Gandhi had resigned as the Congress chief following the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress had won only 52 of 543 parliamentary seats in the polls.

Since Rahul Gandhi’s resignation, Sonia Gandhi has acted as the interim chief of the party. In August 2020, a group of 23 Congress leaders, known as G-23, had written to her to press for a complete revamp of the party’s organisation. The G-23 leaders have repeatedly said that the party needs an active president.

Earlier, unidentified leaders of the party had told PTI that the election of the next president was to end by September 20, but is likely to be delayed as the party is focused on its countrywide campaign “Bharat Jodo Yatra” which is starting on September 7.

Ahead of Sunday’s meeting, veteran Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot have exhorted Rahul Gandhi to take back the reins of the party.

Spate of resignations

Anand Sharma, one of the G-23 leaders, was likely to discuss the exit of Azad at the meeting. Sharma spoke to Azad for more than an hour on Saturday, according to the Hindustan Times. On August 21, Sharma had resigned as chairperson of the party’s steering committee for Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, citing “continuing exclusion and insults”.

On Saturday, Telangana Congress leader MA Khan also resigned from the party, saying that it had completely failed to persuade citizens that it could reclaim its former grandeur and lead the country forward.

He told ANI that things starting deteriorating since Rahul Gandhi assumed the vice president position of the party committee. “He has a different thought process of his own, which doesn’t match with any member, from block level to booth level,” he added.

Azad ended his nearly 50-year-old association with the party two days after Punjab leader Jaiveer Shergill resigned from the Congress. Earlier this year, Kapil Sibal and Ashwani Kumar had also quit.