Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was elected unopposed as president of the Indian National Congress here on Monday.
Briefing reporters, the party’s central election authority chief Mullappally Ramachandran said Mr. Gandhi will formally take over on December 16.
“Since the withdrawal of date/time is over and as there is only one candidate (Rahul), as per Article XVII (d) of the Constitution of Indian National Congress, I hereby declare Shri Rahul Gandhi elected as president of the Indian National Congress,” Mr. Ramachandran said.
At the party headquarters, 24 Akbar Road, slogans such as “Agla pradhan mantri kaisa ho, Rahul Gandhi jaisa ho,”(Who would be our next PM, Rahul Gandhi!) and crackers rent the air as Mr. Ramachandran made the announcement. Supporters gathered in huge numbers waving Congress flags.
He is the 16th president of the Congress since Independence and sixth from the Nehru-Gandhi clan to take over the party reins. Mr. Gandhi has been vice-president of the party since 2013.
Among other senior politicians, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated him. “I congratulate Rahulji on his election as Congress President my best wishes for a fruitful tenure,” he tweeted.
BJP rattled, says Azad
Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad said even before taking over, Mr. Gandhi had rattled the BJP.
“After three decades, we have a Congress president in the mid-40s. Of course his father took over at a younger age. In the last four-years, Rahul Gandhi has worked hard and we can see the results today. He is leading the Congress campaign alone in Gujarat and the BJP is countering him with their 80 Cabinet Ministers, 12-15 Chief Ministers, and State Ministers,” Mr. Azad said.
The incumbent president Sonia Gandhi is expected to hold a designated role as an overall guide and mentor of party. According to sources, a new post of a party patron may be constituted to accommodate her. There is no clarity yet on whether she will resign from the post of parliamentary party chief or not.
Congress expects Rahul to halt party’s slide
The new Congress president has to live up to the expectations of his colleagues who hope that he would arrest the slide in the party’s electoral fortunes. “In 2014, we were in a weak spot. We have been on a path of recovery since then. Despite a measly 44 MPs, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi we have forced the government to roll back anti-poor measures in GST and the Land Acquisition Bill,” Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi said.
There is also a wide expectation that he will empower the average Congress worker.
A close confidant of Mr. Gandhi, K. Raju who heads the Congress SC department told The Hindu that he will ensure that every Congress worker has a role to play.
“He will instill a new sense of power and pride in the grassroots workers. He will bring in a mechanism that will ensure that every worker gets to participate in the decision-making process,” Mr. Raju said.
Monday’s announcement has to be ratified by the Congress plenary session. The plenary will also elect the new Congress Working Committee.
The highest decision-making body of the party is expected to see a few changes. Mr. Gandhi is likely to bring in some new faces. The plenary session may be held in mid-January either in Delhi or Karnataka.