Agree with Rahul that non-Gandhi should be Congress president, Priyanka in new book
The book, ‘India Tomorrow: Conversations with the Next generation of Political Leaders’ written by US academicians Pradeep Chibber and Harsh Shah, also quotes Priyanka Gandhi as having said that the Congress should have its own pathUpdated: Aug 19, 2020, 14:14 IST
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra agreed with her brother, Rahul Gandhi, last year when he said that a non-Gandhi should lead their party, according to a new book.
The book, ‘India Tomorrow: Conversations with the Next generation of Political Leaders’ written by US academicians Pradeep Chibber and Harsh Shah, also quotes Priyanka Gandhi as having said that the Congress should have its own path.
“Perhaps not in the (resignation) letter but elsewhere he has said that none of us should be the president of the party and I am in full agreement with him,” the book quotes Priyanka Gandhi as having said in her interview to the authors.
Commenting on it, a senior Congress functionary said, on the condition of anonymity, that “a 15-month old comment of Priyanka Gandhi is being projected as a fresh interview”. The authors had met Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on July 2019 for the interview and they had also spoken to Rahul Gandhi around the same time.
Congress leaders recall that Rahul Gandhi had offered his resignation from the president’s post at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on May 25 last year, taking responsibility for the party’s crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Rahul Gandhi remained firm on his decision and posted a farewell note to his supporters on July 3 last year to put a stamp of finality on his resignation.
In the CWC meeting, Rahul Gandhi slammed the veterans for “placing the interests” of their sons above the party, and also mentioned that some leaders had even lost the election from their strongholds even as he criticised a section of the so-called GenNext for hankering for posts.
He also told the CWC a non-Gandhi should be elected as the new Congress chief. In the same meeting, Priyanka Gandhi, while insisting that only one person could not be held accountable for the poll debacle, had agreed with her brother that a non-Gandhi should become the Congress president.
The Congress did try to find a non-Gandhi as its chief but failed to do so.
Ahead of another CWC meeting on August 10, its members were divided into five groups to interact with state leaders from five regions of the country and evolve a consensus on the party chief’s name.
While Sonia Gandhi was in the group that interacted with the leaders from the eastern region of the country, Rahul Gandhi was in the group for the west. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was part of the group for the north, Manmohan Singh south and Ambika Soni for the northeast.
Priyanka Gandhi had outright rejected the demands for her to take over the party.
On August 1, at a meeting of Congress general secretaries and in-charge of states to discuss preparations for the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on August 20, Priyanka Gandhi vetoed a suggestion that she assume the leadership role, squarely telling her party that she did not want to be dragged into this. Her move was aimed at firmly spiking an idea that has been supported by several senior Congress leaders over the last few weeks.
A section of the Congress, including Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Thiruvananthapuram lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, had backed her for the post of the party president.
These developments have surfaced at a time when several members among the party have been demanded that Rahul Gandhi be reinstated as the party president. Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari have also put forward a suggestion that the party should hold internal elections if Rahul Gandhi does not withdraw his resignation. Several ministers, MPs and former chief ministers have urged Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to settle the leadership issues and uncertainty in the Congress party.
Priyanka Gandhi’s response came when a party general secretary, in the course of the meeting, suggested that she should come forward and assume the leadership role. She firmly told him and others present to desist from taking her name as her brother’s replacement. “Don’t drag me into this,” she had said.
Before the CWC meeting on August 10 last year, senior leader Mukul Wasnik had emerged as one of the frontrunners for the top party post.
However, consensus eluded the meeting and finally, the CWC requested Sonia Gandhi to once again accept the responsibility and after Rahul Gandhi turned down repeated demands to withdraw his resignation. She had given up the post in December 2017 when Rahul Gandhi assumed the reins of the party.
Initially, Sonia Gandhi refused to accept the request but agreed after repeated pleas by party leaders on the condition that she would stay on interim chief only till the election to choose a full-time president was held.
Sonia Gandhi has then said her returning as the party chief would again give a handle to the opponents to attack the Congress on grounds that the Gandhi family was unwilling to give up its hold over the party.
Priyanka Gandhi’s remarks created a buzz in Congress circles amid a clamour for Rahul Gandhi to take up the responsibility once again. Leaders such as Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari have suggested that there should be internal elections if Rahul Gandhi refuses to withdraw his resignation. There is also a talk in the party that many leaders, including former chief ministers and MPs, have written to Sonia Gandhi to settle the leadership issue and end the uncertainty at the top.