The Congress Working Committee on Monday announced the schedule for the election of a new party president. Voting for the party’s presidential poll will take place on December 16, and votes will be counted on December 19.

Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi is expected to be the only candidate in the fray.

The notification would be issued on December 1, and nominations can be filed on December 4. If Rahul Gandhi is the only candidate contesting, Congress will announce his victory on December 5, the day of scrutiny of candidates’ nominations.

Party President Sonia Gandhi had called for a meeting on Saturday to approve the schedule of Congress’ presidential election. Sonia Gandhi has been the party’s longest-serving president and has led it to two consecutive general election victories, in 2004 and 2009.

On Monday, speaking at the Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi’s Janpath, Sonia Gandhi criticised the Narendra Modi government for delaying the winter session of Parliament. “The Modi government, in arrogance, has cast a dark shadow on India’s Parliamentary democracy by sabotaging the Winter Session on flimsy grounds,” she said. “It’s mistaken if it thinks by locking the temple of democracy, it will escape constitutional accountability ahead of elections.”

Gandhi also criticised the government’s demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax decisions. “The prime minister had the audacity to have a midnight celebration in Parliament to launch an ill-prepared and flawed GST, but today he lacks the courage to face Parliament,” she said. “The fortunes of a few are being built by destroying the future of the poor and the oppressed,” the Congress president added.

Earlier on Monday, ANI had reported that the party’s CWC had passed a resolution to make Rahul Gandhi the next president, but has since then retracted it.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation

The dates for the Congress’ presidential election comes after months of speculation about Rahul Gandhi soon leading the party. On October 13, Sonia Gandhi had said he will take over the Congress soon. “You have been asking this for so many years, and it is now happening,” she had said.

On October 7, the Delhi unit of the All India Congress Committee had passed a resolution asking Rahul Gandhi to take over as president of the party. On October 1, Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot had said that Rahul Gandhi may take over as president soon after Diwali.

The Congress vice president had also indicated in September that he was ready to take on the responsibility. During his address at the University of California in Berkley on September 12, he had brushed off a remark about being a dynast, and said he was “absolutely ready” to take up an executive responsibility if the party asked him to do so.