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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Best move at this stage, say Congress leaders on Sonia Gandhi’s return

Sonia Gandhi, 72, who is also chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), was chosen as the interim president of the Congress late on Saturday after an effort by the CWC to persuade Rahul Gandhi, 49, to continue failed.

india Updated: Aug 12, 2019 01:17 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Amrita Madhukalya
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Amrita Madhukalya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi arrives to attend Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, at AICC headquarter, in New Delhi, on Saturday, August 10, 2019.
Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi arrives to attend Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, at AICC headquarter, in New Delhi, on Saturday, August 10, 2019.((Photo by Vipin Kumar/ Hindustan Times))
         

Several Congress leaders including veterans Captain Amarinder Singh and Ashok Gehlot welcomed Sonia Gandhi’s return to the helm of the party on Sunday, a day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) picked her as the interim president following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation over poor Lok Sabha election results.

Sonia Gandhi, 72, who is also chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), was chosen as the interim president of the Congress late on Saturday after an effort by the CWC to persuade Rahul Gandhi, 49, to continue failed.

The Rajasthan and Punjab chief ministers called it the “best decision” in the current circumstances.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said he looked forward to working under the “combined leadership” of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. While Sachin Pilot said Congress members across the country needed to come together to build the party, Milind Deora also welcomed the decision. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said it was an “extremely wise decision” by the CWC.

The party’s Bihar leader Kishore Kumar Jha said the move “prevented a split” in the party as a non-Gandhi president would have resulted in its fragmentation.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, however, said the Congress was yet to learn from its mistakes. “Political parties governed by dynasty, family and caste politics were defeated everywhere. The Congress party does not have the courage to move beyond one family,” Chouhan told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

The decision to ask Sonia Gandhi to take over as the interim president came at the end of day-long deliberations on Saturday, when the party’s state representatives were divided into five sub-groups. The meeting of the extended CWC and consultations with state leaders came at the end of two months of absence of a leader in the party’s top post.

A Congress state unit president from the north said on condition of anonymity that a group of leaders tried to zero in on a non-Gandhi name for the president’s post before the CWC meet. However, there was no consensus over leaders such as Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge, whose names were proposed in the process, he said.

While Karnataka’s BK Hariprasad had said as part of the meeting that if Rahul Gandhi is not keen, a party leader with 10-15 years of experience should be considered, Telangana Congress leader Komatireddy Venkat Reddy suggested Priyanka Gandhi Vadra take over. Some leaders from the Northeast, too, suggested that a young leader should be passed the baton, if Rahul Gandhi declines.

Sonia Gandhi’s name was proposed at Saturday’s second meeting of the CWC after Rahul Gandhi refused to stay on as the party president. In the process, Scindia and other leaders vetoed AK Antony, who insisted that Sonia Gandhi should not accept the post as per Rahul Gandhi’s wish that the next president should be someone from outside the Gandhi family, a leader who attended the meeting said.

With Sonia Gandhi at the helm, the All India Congress Committee’s structure could see some changes, said a party leader who did not wish to be named. The immediate task cut out for her is to oversee the party’s fate in the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, the leader added. She will also have to douse fires in the state units in Jharkhand and Haryana, with top leaders there having expressed their displeasure over the prevailing situations, according to another leader. Jharkhand state president Dr Ajoy Kumar had recently put in his resignations, while the Hoodas are said to be unhappy.

Sonia Gandhi will also have to stop the high attrition rate in Assam where several veteran party leaders have recently quit. The party’s former Rajya Sabha chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita and Amethi’s Sanjay Sinh had told party colleagues they did not know who to speak to when they left.

First Published: Aug 11, 2019 23:42 IST

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