Sonia Gandhi likely to lead Congress for six months

Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi arrives to attend the Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi on August 10, 2019.

Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi arrives to attend the Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi on August 10, 2019.

Sonia Gandhi is expected to be the interim president of the Congress for more than six months. After 12 hours of deliberations on Saturday, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) asked her to lead the party again.

Ms. Gandhi, who is also the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, is likely to be at the helm till the next round of the Assembly polls, with no election to choose the next president. Other than the three Gandhis — Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka — no other contenders were discussed by the CWC, sources said.

There have been reports that Mallikarjun Kharge and Mukul Wasnik were the front runners.

But their names did not come up during the elaborate consultation process undertaken by the five sub-groups of the CWC, sources said. Five sub-groups were formed to hold consultations with Congress’ State unit heads, MPs and other senior functionaries. When the CWC met for the second time at 8 p.m. on Saturday, all the sub-groups reported that the chorus was for Mr. Rahul Gandhi alone, while a handful backed his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. 

Convincing Rahul

Attempts were made to convince Mr. Gandhi to change his decision. Ms. Vadra phoned him from the CWC on the insistence of the other members, sources said. However, he point blank refused to continue. “Sonia Gandhi told us that Mr. Gandhi will not come here because he doesn’t want to be bullied by the CWC into changing his mind,” a CWC member said. 

“We had been debating for 12 hours and we decided that we shall not leave the room without a decision,” another CWC member said. 

The decision to bring back Ms. Sonia Gandhi, many insiders said, is a compromise between the old guard and the younger lot since, under her command, her son will continue to have a say in party matters. “Regretfully, Rahul Gandhi ji has stuck to his decision to resign but it is an honour to have Smt Sonia Gandhi ji as our party president. I look forward to working under their combined leadership!” Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who had struck a discordant note on the issue of Article 370, said in a tweet. 

No time line

The resolution appointing Ms. Sonia Gandhi as “interim president” did not provide a time line on when the elections would be held to elect the next president. The issue was also not discussed in the CWC meet. The party’s constitution, too, does not prescribe a time line for an interim or provisional president to begin the process of finding a successor. 

Party insiders said that the Congress cannot go through the motions of elections and prepare for the Assembly polls simultaneously. Elections in Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Haryana are due in November. Delhi goes to polls in February next year, and Bihar later the same year. 

After Mr. Rahul Gandhi announced his decision to quit on May 25, two days after the Lok Sabha polls, the chorus to have a transparent election with a wider electorate has been doing the rounds with the likes of three time MP Shashi Tharoor batting for it. 

Tharoor tweets

“Congratulations to Congress Working Committee for making the best decision in current circumstances, requesting Smt Sonia Gandhi ji to take over as Interim President pending the election of a regular President by the AICC. Let elections allow party workers to decide who should lead them,” Mr. Tharoor tweeted. 

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Printable version | May 23, 2022 12:30:42 pm |