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Highlights: Rahul Gandhi takes over as Congress president, says will make it ‘grand old young party’, fight politics of anger

Rahul Gandhi took over the reins from his mother Sonia Gandhi on Saturday. Here are the highlights.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2017 18:34 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Congress president,Live Updates
Congress party president Rahul Gandhi speaks during a ceremony at the party headquarters in New Delhi.(AFP Photo)

Rahul Gandhi took charge as Congress president at a function on Saturday and said the Opposition party will be the “voice of every Indian” and the “bastion” of democracy.

Gandhi was handed a certificate of election in front of his mother Sonia Gandhi at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi. He is the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family after taking the baton from Sonia to become Congress president.

In separates speeches, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi reiterated the “disturbing trends” in the country, asking Congress workers to fight the “politics of fear”.

On Friday, Sonia Gandhi announced her retirement as Congress president but not from politics. Asked what role she will assume after Rahul Gandhi takes over the reins of the party, she told media persons: “My role is to retire.”

HIGHLIGHTS:

4:25 pm:Kamal Haasan congratulates Rahul Gandhi. The veteran actor-filmmaker says he’s sure that Rahul would work and deserve the admiration like his elders.

4:10pm: BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi reacts to Rahul gandhi’s appointment as Congress president, says the manner in which he criticised the BJP wasn’t required. “It shows they are obsessed with fear of BJP. It is a 132-year-old party, so it’s the same party responsible for division of country and subsequent divisions in sub-sections of society,” he says.

3:41 pm: BJP leader Babul Supriyo termed Congress President Rahul Gandhi as captain of the ‘sinking ship’.

Rahul Gandhi is the captain of a sinking ship. I would enjoy his speech back home as he must have said something humorous. I have heard his speech is already doing rounds on social media but I think he should talk about himself also,” Supriyo said.

3:41pm: “He is talking about 21st century but I am not sure the party will remain even till this century given that its performance is falling apart every day. Definitely, the Congress has a great history and I hope it has a great future too,” the BJP leader says.

3:40pm: Union minister for heavy industries and public enterprises Babul Supriyo terms Congress president Rahul Gandhi as captain of the ‘sinking ship’. “Rahul Gandhi is the captain of a sinking ship. I would enjoy his speech back home as he must have said something humorous. I have heard his speech is already doing rounds on social media but I think he should talk about himself also.”

3pm: Hours after taking charge as Congress president, Rahul Gandhi pays homage to martyred Indian soldiers of the 1971 war with Pakistan, on the occasion of Vijay Diwas.

2:40pm: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal congratulates Rahul Gandhi, tweeting: “Congratulations Rahul ji for this big responsibility and our best wishes for all ur endeavours (sic).”

RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury also congratulate Rahul for his new role.

2:15pm: DMK leader MK Stalin and film star Kamal Haasan wish Rahul Gandhi for formally taking over as the Congress president.

“Am confident that he (Rahul Gandhi) will fulfil the aspirations and hopes of the people and restore the glory of secularism, socialism and federalism,” Stalin, whose party is an ally of the Congress, tweets.

Haasan, who has been dropping hints of taking the political plunge, urged the Gandhi scion to “define” his position. “Congratulations Mr. Rahul.G. Your seat does not define you but you can define your position. I have admired your elders. I am sure you would work and deserve my admiration too,” he says.

1:30pm: Sonia and Rahul share an emotional moment after he took over as the party chief: 

Congress president Rahul Gandhi with Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in New Delhi. (Arvind Yadav/HT Photo)

12:48pm: Several Congress leaders thank Sonia Gandhi for her service to the party and the nation.

“A memorable tenure of 19 years! Proud to have the opportunity to work under your able leadership and guidance! We welcome the new chapter in Indian history, @OfficeOfRG with full support! (sic)” writes Ajay Maken.

12:30pm: I am confident he will prove to be a good party president. He will face and help overcome the challenges the country is facing today: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Rahul Gandhi taking over as Congress chief.

12pm: Rahul’s speech ends.

11:59am: It is with deepest humility that I accept this position, knowing that I will always be walking in the shadow of giants: Rahul Gandhi

11:58am: The BJP is fighting for the soldier of the “self”. We the Congress has always fought for our brothers and sisters. We consider the BJP our brothers and sisters even though we don’t agree with them. They want a “Congress-free” India... we do not fight hate with hate: Rahul

“They defame; we respect and defend. We are the bastion of the people. It is in this service that my idealism rests.”

11:55am: We will make Congress a “grand old young party”... let’s make a country of brotherhood. We will fight the politics of anger.  

11:52am: You have an example in front of you, once fire breaks out it is difficult to douse it, that is what we are telling the people of BJP, that if you set the nation on fire it will be difficult to control. Today BJP has spread the fire of violence across the country: Rahul Gandhi

11:50am: “We will defend the voice of every single Indian. We will never allow democratic dreams of our country to be silenced,” says Rahul in his speech.

11:48am: We are now made to believe that only one man is strong... in fact, everything is subservient to the leader’s image: Rahul attacks Modi govt.

11:47am: Their (BJP govt) power is manipulative and distortive. They attack the Congress and try to weaken us. Stand up to them and their anger and hatred makes all of us stronger, Rahul says in his stinging criticism of Modi goverment.

11:45am: Rahul begins his address. “I’m an idealist, like many Indians.”

Many of us are disillusioned today because of politics today. “Today politics is being used to crush the people. When I joined politics as a 34-year-old, I wished to be part of an awakening.”

11:42am: Rahul is my son. I don’t find it appropriate to praise him. But I can tell you this. From childhood, he adopted ahimsa. The attacks on him and the violence he has seen have made him fearless. I’m sure he will lead the party with a pure heart and dedication. I will be present as the party progresses: Sonia

11:40am: We aren’t the ones to get scared, or bend. Our struggle is part of this country’s soul. Protecting this country is your goal. Our country’s foundations and shared culture are under attack... There is an atmosphere of fear: Sonia tells Congress workers, apparently launching an attack on the Modi government.

11:35am: My support was again snatched from me after my husband’s death... after this, I felt that the party was weakening, and absolving my duty would disappoint Indira ji and Rajiv ji. It was then that I entered politics, Sonia Gandhi says explaining why she let go of her reluctance to enter politics.

11:30am: “I felt as if my own mother had been snatched from me,” Sonia says, recalling Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

11:27am: I was standing at the same place 20 years back when you chose me as the party president. Back then, I was worried and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t think how I will manage a historic party... I married into a family whose members were revolutionary, who had even gone to the prison for the freedom of our country. Indira (Gandhi) ji took me as a child: Sonia Gandhi

11:26am: Sonia Gandhi begins her speech by wishing Rahul for his new role as the party president. “This is a new era, and a new leadership.”  

Her speech is briefly halted due to the noise of crackers.

11:25am: Party workers honour Sonia Gandhi with a memento. She addresses the crowd.

11:19am: We salute Sonia ji for the magnificent leadership she has provided for the last 19 years. Rahul ji has been trained for a long period; he has been looking after party activities for many years. Rahul ji brings with him a new sense of dedication and commitment, a new sense of the leadership road with courage and humility. Rahul ji is taking over as president of party at a time when there are some disturbing trends noticeable. There are dangers that politics of fear will take over from politics of hope. We depend on you to transform the politics to fear to hope: Manmohan Singh 

“Under your leadership, our party will gain new heights... May your path be blessed,” says Manmohan Singh, concluding his speech.

11:18am: Sonia ji has been the leader of the Congress party for 19 years... her contributions will be remembered in the history of the party. As PM for 10 years, we took some historic discussions: Manmohan Singh says, listing the previous UPA government’s achievements.

11:16am: Former PM Manmohan takes the stage. “Today is a unique day in the history of the Congress party. You will forgive me if I don’t become emotional in this historic occasion.” 

11:15am: Congress leaders Sanjay Jha tells a TV channel Rahul Gandhi is known as a “marathon man”, adding that there is no leader attacked as viciously as the party president.

Watch the ceremony live: 

11:02am: Rahul takes charge as Congress president. He will address the crowd at the AICC chief shortly.

11:01am: Ceremony begins. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh is also on the stage with Rahul and Sonia Gandhi.

11am: Rahul Gandhi arrives at the AICC headquarters with former party president Sonia Gandhi.

10:55am: Rahul Gandhi leaves his residence for Congress headquarter, where he will be taking charge as Congress president.

10:54am: Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra reach Congress headquarters.

10:45am: Congress workers march from Rail Bhavan to All India Congress Committee office at 24, Akbar Road, ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s takeover as party president.

10:30am: “To our longest-serving president Smt. Sonia Gandhi, who worked relentlessly for the ideals of the Congress Party, & through it for the country; we express our utmost gratitude. A guiding light you will always be,” tweets Congress from its official account.

10am: Congress leaders start arriving at the party headquarters in New Delhi ahead of the function, where Rahul will receive a certificate of being elected the president.

Read | The political evolution of Rahul Gandhi

9:30am: The Youth Congress office in the national capital was lit up on Friday night and party workers rejoiced by dancing to drum beats.

9am: A dance is being performed by artists as supporters gather outside Rahul Gandhi’s residence in Delhi.

8:15am: Party workers burst crackers, raise slogans in support of Rahul Gandhi outside the Congress headquarters at Delhi’s Akbar Road.

8am: Rahul’s elevation comes nearly five years after he was appointed the Congress vice-president in January 2013. He is the 49th president and the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the top post in the 131-year-old party.

It marks a generational shift in the country’s oldest political party that is going through a difficult phase due to a series of electoral setbacks. The party faced one of its worst ever electoral drubbings in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, barely managing to win 44 seats.

7:30am: Congress leader Sachin Pilot says Rahul Gandhi had always been a unanimous choice for lakhs of party workers across India, and he will infuse a new energy into the party.

“It’s a matter of great joy. Rahul Gandhi has lot of challenges ahead of him. He is an honest person. He allows space for discussion with humility. His becoming the president will infuse a new energy into the Congress Party,” Pilot tells ANI.

First Published: Dec 16, 2017 07:59 IST