Sonia New Interim Party Chief: Congress Once Again Falls Back on Gandhi Family

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UPA Chairperson and new interim president of Congress Sonia Gandhi. — File photo

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi will be the Congress Party’s interim president as her son, Rahul Gandhi, once again refused to withdraw his resignation from the post. He had resigned from the post after the party’s poor performance in the general elections.

After a second marathon meeting in the late Saturday evening, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) – the highest decision making body of the party – has unanimously elected Mrs. Gandhi for the post after it failed to evolve a consensus on the choice for next party president.

Earlier, the working committee had suspended deliberations to elect the next party president in view of alarming developments in Jammu and Kashmir following the unilateral stripping the state of special status by the Centre while Rahul Gandhi asked the Modi Government to tell the ‘truth’  to the countrymen what is happening in the state.

After the meeting, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad announced that Sonia Gandhi was named the interim president of the party and she accepted the CWC offer. He also informed that Rahul Gandhi once again refused to take back his resignation from the post of president.

The working committee also decided to form five groups, each representing a region — North, South, East, West and North East – to hold consultations with the regional leaders on the election of the next party president.

Senior Congress leaders attending CWC meet on Saturday in New Delhi. — PTI

After the second CWC meeting at the party headquarters, Rahul Gandhi briefed reporters on the worsening situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Expressing grave concern over the development, he said the meeting had to be stopped due to this.

“The meeting was in progress when reports of issues relating to J&K came in. The meeting had to be stopped. The government needs to tell the people what is happening in the state with complete transparency,” he said.

Soon after the meeting, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal along with the party’s communication in-charge Randeep Surjewala held a special briefing. They said, “The CWC unanimously resolved to request Sonia Gandhi to take over as the interim president pending the election of a regular president by the AICC.”

There was unanimity among the leaders on Rahul Gandhi’s for the post. CWC members also preferred him as they said he alone took on the BJP Government on the issue of constitutional supremacy. But Rahul Gandhi said his decision was final.”

Reading out three resolutions passed at the CWC meeting, Venugopal said it appreciated and expressed gratitude to Rahul Gandhi for providing “exceptional’ leadership to the Congress.

“The CWC places on record its profound sense of appreciation and gratitude for the exceptional leadership provided by Shri Rahul Gandhi as Congress President who led the party with unbounded drive, fierce determination, and dedication.”

“He (Rahul) emerged as a beacon of hope for the very large number of people who cherish the idea of India on which our freedom movement and the Constitution was anchored. He came to be seen as a bulwark against the forces of hate, prejudice, bigotry, intolerance and divisiveness.”

In the resolution, the CWC noted that taking personal responsibility for the disappointing performance of the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi set new standards of accountability in public life.

The second resolution said: “The CWC considered the views of PCC presidents, CLP Leaders, AICC Secretaries and Members of Parliament. The CWC unanimously resolved that Shri Rahul Gandhi should continue as Congress President, as desired by all who were consulted today, and requested him to accept this decision. However, Shri Rahul Gandhi declined to withdraw his resignation. Consequently, the CWC unanimously resolved to request Smt. Sonia Gandhi to take over as Interim President pending the election of a regular President by the AICC.”

Venugopal said the working committee also passed a resolution on the alarming developments in the troubled-torn Jammu and Kashmir demanding permission for opposition delegation’s visit to the state.

“The Congress working Committee expressed serious concern over the situation in Jammu & Kashmir including reports of clamp down and news blackout. The Congress Working Committee also expressed serious concern about arrest and detention of entire political leadership in Jammu & Kashmir. The Congress Working Committee calls upon the Government to act in a transparent fashion and forthwith permit a delegation of opposition parties in Jammu & Kashmir.”

When asked why the CWC failed to reach a consensus on a non-Gandhi president, Surjewala said, “It’s the internal matter of the party and the situation is so much demanding. Someone with experience needs to lead the party as the country is passing through challenging and difficult times.”

Earlier in the day, both Sonia and Rahul refused to participate in the consultation process to choose the new leader. Sonia said as former presidents of the party, the mother-son duo cannot participate in the process.

However, the party relying on the Gandhi family once again reflects its inability to choose a non-Gandhi leader who can lead it from the front. The names of the party’s Dalit leaders like Meera Kumar, Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge besides Jyotiraditya Scindia were doing the rounds for the post as the party wants to bring back Dalit sections into its fold once again. However, a source told the Caravan Daily the party cannot take risk of appointing a Dalit as president now in the prevailing ‘Upper’ caste-dominated politics. For the first time after two decades, ’upper’ castes once again got domination in both the Houses of Parliament after the ascendency of the BJP.

Now, Sonia Gandhi will lead the party for the second time that she was first made the party president in 1998 after unceremoniously removing veteran leader Sitaram Kesari. Under her leadership, the party had won 2004 and 2009 general elections while she had relinquished the post in December 2017 for her son Rahul.

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