Congress: Sonia is interim chief

Barely a year and a half after stepping down from the post of party president, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi yet again was handed over the reins on Saturday. She has been appointed interim president.

With three state assembly polls round the corner, dipping fortunes and no consensus on a new party chief, top leaders once again turned to Sonia and prevailed on her to see the party through this rough patch. Sonia is expected to set in motion a democratic process of elections within the party for which nominations will be called in the coming weeks and state unit representatives will vote.

Following a marathon meeting of the Congress Working Committee on Saturday the larger consensus was for Rahul Gandhi to continue but the outgoing chief took full accountability of the recent poll drubbing and refused to take back his resignation.

“We adopted three resolutions today. The CWC expressed its profound sense of appreciation and gratitude for exceptional leadership of Rahul Gandhi. He came to be seen as a bulwark against the forces of hate, prejudice, bigotry, intolerance and divisiveness…” AICC general secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal told reporters after the late-night meeting.

Venugopal said that since Rahul Gandhi refused to take back his resignation, ‘pending election of regular Congress president’ the CWC requested Sonia Gandhi to be interim president.

Party leaders said that this was the ‘best option’ keeping in mind the majoritarian view of the party.

Earlier, the top panel had formed five groups, each representing a region — North, South, East, West and North East –led by young leaders like Sushmita Dev, Arun Yadav, Gaurav Gogoi, Rajni Patil and Rajeev Satav to discuss probable names.

Each member was asked to propose one name, and according to senior leaders present at the meeting, most insisted on Rahul. The second option was Priyanka Gandhi but since Rahul had clarified at the very outset that a Gandhi family member will not lead the party currently, other names were considered. AICC general secretary and Former Union Minister Mukul Wasnik, former Leader of Party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Kumari Selja had also emerged as the front runners. Names of younger contenders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot were also proposed but most leaders insisted on an experienced senior leader who could handle organisational management and continued to insist on a Gandhi family member to hold the position.

Earlier, Sonia and Rahul had refused to participate in the consultation process to zero in on the next party chief. After holding talks during the crucial meeting at the AICC headquarters in Delhi, Sonia said as former presidents of the party, the motherson duo cannot participate in the process. “We cannot be part of this process,” she said after she recused herself from the deliberations.

A headless and rudderless Congress party has seen several top leaders jump ship over the last three months since Rahul stepped down. With assembly elections scheduled in three states in October and organisational crisis in these poll-bound states, several top leaders have urged the CWC to finalise and announce a name by the end of the day so that the ongoing leadership crisis is resolved.

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