New Delhi: The apex governing body of congress nominated party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the top post, but subject to the official endorsement of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was unable to attend the meeting. If and when he takes over, Rahul Gandhi would be the fifth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi family to hold the top post in India’s oldest political party.
The move is significant given that Rahul Gandhi took over as the second-in-command in January 2013. Sonia Gandhi, the party’s longest serving chief, has been unwell and there has been a growing chorus from within the party seeking Rahul Gandhi’s elevation.
“Members unanimously expressed their strong sentiment that accepting the wishes of crores of Congress workers and well wishers, Rahul Gandhi take over as the president of the Congress party”, Antony told reporters while briefing on the deliberations. Antony said all members including Manmohan Singh, insisted it was “high time” Rahul took over as party chief and the Congress mobilised “all forces” to take on “anti-people and dictatorial” policies of the Modi government.
Sonia Gandhi has created a record by being at the helm of the 130-year-old organisation since early 1998 succeeding the late Sitaram Kesri who was ousted by the CWC. “It is for the first time that the CWC is making such a recommendation. We are sure that the Congress President would give it proper care and attention”, Antony said replying to a volley of questions on the issue.
Surjewala said senior CWC members would personally meet the party chief as a “follow up” action regarding their recommendation for Rahul’s elevation. After Sonia takes a decision, the CWC would meet again to formally ratify it. Rahul was appointed party vice-president in January 2013 at Congress’s brainstorming session in Jaipur. The talk about his elevation has been going on for quite some time now. Leaders like Jairam Ramesh had even insisted that Rahul was the “de facto” (in fact) leader who has to become “de jure” (in law).
Antony said Sonia Gandhi will not nominate her successor as Congress President. “It is not her decision. She is not nominating the Congress president,” he said. “This is the first time the CWC has recommended (Rahul’s elevation). The Congress president will not nominate the Congress president. The Congress Working Committee of AICC has to take the decision. (It is) the first time the entire CWC met today and unanimously recommended that Rahul Gandhi should take over.”
He said, “For the first time, the entire CWC, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, expressed strong sentiment of crores of Congress workers and sympathisers that Rahul Gandhi must take over the presidency and mobilise other forces in its fight against the communal forces, dictatorial forces of the government, RSS and the Sangh Parivar.” “The unanimous sentiment of the CWC has ben noted and will be conveyed by senior members of Congress Working Committee to the Congress president,” Surjewala said.
Meanwhile, the party has also postponed its internal polls by a year although Antony was at pains to clarify that this had nothing to do with Gandhi’s imminent elevation.
There is still no clarity on the exact date of transition. Going by party norms, Sonia Gandhi would call another CWC meeting in which the proposal will be officially considered. Party leaders are also looking forward to 19 November when the Congress is organising an event to mark the 100th birth anniversary of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.
Demands for Gandhi’s elevation have grown since the party’s drubbing in the 16th general elections in 2014. Party leaders say the delay may have been because Rahul Gandhi was reluctant and also because a section of the party leadership, particulary the old guard, believed Sonia Gandhi should stay at the helm.