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Sonia Gandhi says ‘my role is to retire’, a day before Rahul takes charge of Congress

Sonia Gandhi, the outgoing president of the Congress party, has been its longest-serving chief, heading the party since 1998 and taking it to two Lok Sabha victories.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2017 18:39 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sonia Gandhi,Congress president,Sonia Gandhi retirement
File photo of Congress’ outgoing president Sonia Gandhi with her son and president-elect Rahul Gandhi at a function in New Delhi in October.(HT)

A day before Rahul Gandhi takes charge as Congress president, his mother and outgoing chief of the party, Sonia Gandhi, told reporters outside Parliament, “My role is to retire.”

Sonia, who turned 71 last week, has led the Congress party since 1998, becoming the longest serving president of the nearly 131-year-old party.

Some years ago, Sonia, during a television interview, had said she wants to enjoy her retired life reading books, spending time with her family.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “Sonia Gandhi has retired as Congress president and not from politics.”

The 47-year-old Rahul, who will be the sixth member of the Nehru-Gandhi family to head the Congress, has his task cut out for him.

Besides the daunting mission of pulling the party out of its current phase of back to back electoral defeats, Rahul will look to go for an organisational overhaul, stitch together lasting alliances and lift the morale of its workers to revive the Congress’ fortunes.

If the exit polls for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections are accurate, Rahul will likely begin his presidency with two defeats.

In 1998, when Sonia took charge of the Congress, chaos and confusion reigned supreme. It was a fragmented party that then ruled just four states — Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Mizoram and Nagaland and had 141 members in the Lok Sabha.

The party’s flagging fortunes forced Sonia to come out of self-imposed political hibernation, but within six years she helped steer its fortunes around. In 2004, a Congress-led coalition came to power at the Centre, and at the time, she had famously refused the prime minister’s post, opting to work for the Congress party instead.

First Published: Dec 15, 2017 13:12 IST