Best move at this stage, say Cong leaders on Sonia return

Monday, 12/08/2019

NEWDELHI: Several Congress leaders including veterans Captain Amarinder Singh and Ashok Gehlot welcomed Sonia Gandhi’s return to the helm of the party on Sunday, a day after the Congress Working Committee picked her as the interim chief following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation over poor Lok Sabha election results.

Sonia Gandhi, 72, who is also chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), was chosen as the interim president of the Congress late on Saturday after an effort by the CWC to persuade Rahul Gandhi, 49, to continue failed.

The Rajasthan and Punjab chief ministers called it the “best decision” in the current circumstances.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said he looked forward to working under the “combined leadership” of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. While Sachin Pilot said Congress members across the country needed to come together to build the party, Milind Deora also welcomed the decision. Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said it was an “extremely wise decision”.

The party’s Bihar leader Kishore Kumar Jha said the move “prevented a split” in the party as a non-Gandhi president would have resulted in fragmentation.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, however, said the Congress was yet to learn from its mistakes. “Political parties governed by dynasty, family and caste politics were defeated everywhere. The Congress party does not have the courage to move beyond one family,” Chouhan told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

The decision to ask Sonia Gandhi to take over as the interim president came at the end of daylong deliberations on Saturday, when the party’s state representatives were divided into five subgroups. The meeting of the extended CWC and consultations with state leaders came at the end of two months of absence of a leader in the party’s top post.

A Congress state unit president from the north said on condition of anonymity that a group of leaders tried to zero in on a non-Gandhi name for the president’s post before the CWC meet. However, there was no consensus over leaders such as Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge, whose names were proposed in the process, he said.

Sonia Gandhi’s name was proposed at Saturday’s second CWC meeting after Rahul Gandhi refused to stay on as the party president. In the process, Scindia and other leaders vetoed AK Antony, who insisted that Sonia Gandhi should not accept the post as per Rahul Gandhi’s wish that the next president should be someone from outside the Gandhi family, a leader who attended the meeting said.

With Sonia Gandhi at the helm, the AICC’s structure could see some changes, said a party leader who did not wish to be named. The immediate task cut out for her is to oversee the party’s fate in the upcoming assembly polls in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana, the leader added.

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