Rahul Gandhi likely to take over as Congress chief after party leaders’ appeal
All members of the Congress’ highest decision-making body requested party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to take over as chief on Monday in a meeting where they also extended by a year Sonia Gandhi’s term as president.india Updated: Nov 08, 2016 00:17 IST
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) unanimously appealed to party vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Monday to take over the reins of the organisation, a move that soon could pave the way for an immediate change of guard in the 130-year-old party.
Congress sources said Rahul will become the party chief “very soon” with the modalities, procedure and date being worked out.
“Rest is all mere formality now. He can take over at a time of his choosing,” a party veteran said.
As many as 32 CWC members requested 46-year-old Gandhi, who was appointed vice-president at the party’s Jaipur chintan shivir or brainstorming session in January 2013, to assume the top post.
He presided over the meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body in the absence of his mother and Congress president, Sonia Gandhi. She skipped the meet because of ill health.
“We will convey our sentiments to the Congress president. I am sure she will give due attention to it,” said senior leader AK Antony, who gave the call that the young Gandhi’s needs to immediately take over the baton.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh concluded the discussion, saying the time has come for Gandhi to assume the top party post and lead the fight against communal forces.
“This is the first time that the CWC has unanimously expressed such sentiments,” said Antony, who has earlier proposed to elevate Gandhi from general secretary to vice-president at the 2013 Jaipur meet. The proposal was promptly accepted and approved, then.
Senior party leaders Ambika Soni and Gurudas Kamat demanded that Rahul should become president at Monday’s CWC meeting itself. But a veteran leader suggested that the move should be deferred as the Congress chief was not present.
The 69-year-old Sonia Gandhi holds the record of being the president of the party for 18 consecutive years after taking over from Sitaram Kesri in 1998. She was appointed party chief at the CWC meeting on March 14 1998, and the AICC ratified the move on April 6.
For his part, Rahul said he was ready to accept any responsibility assigned to him by the party.
“Rahul Gandhiji told CWC members that he wants to fight for idea of India and whatever the party and its workers decide he will be ready to take up that role,” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
At the meeting, Gandhi unleashed a scathing attack on the Modi government, saying democracy is going through “one of its darkest hours” with the ruling party “obsessed with power and seeking to silence” all those who disagree. “All attempts by the government to suppress fundamental freedom by abusing state power would only strengthen the Congress resolve to defeat such danger designs,” he said.
An influential party functionary, who is considered close to Rahul, did not rule out the possibility of a much-awaited organisational reshuffle taking place in next few days.
“Rahul would first like to have his own team in place and then take over,” the leader said.
Antony and Surjewala evaded questions on an exact date when the baton change would happen, such as November 19, the day the Congress will host a grand function to launch the year-long birth centenary celebrations of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
For now, the CWC decided to seek extension for another year from the Election Commission to complete its internal polls. The previous deadline is December 31.
This is not the first time Gandhi chaired a CWC meeting. He did so on February 22, 2014, when the party’s top leaders met to prepare the strategy for the 2014 general elections.