At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Monday, senior party leaders expressed their desire to make party vice-president Rahul Gandhi the next chief of the party, taking the mantle from his mother and current president Sonia Gandhi. The members unanimously urged Rahul to take over as Congress chief. CWC is the party's highest decision-making body.
Monday's CWC meeting is important because Rahul, for the first time, presided over it instead of his mother Sonia. Sonia Gandhi was not present at the meeting due to illness, The Indian Express reported.
"Number of party members expressed strong sentiments that Rahul Gandhi must take over the president-ship of the party," said senior Congress leader AK Antony who was present at the meet. "It is high time that Congress mobilise all its forces to fight against the dictatorial rule of the (Narendra) Modi government," the former defence minister added.
Antony also said that it was for the first time that this sentiment was strongly and unanimously expressed in the CWC meeting. "Final decision has to be that of the party President," he added.
Speaking on behalf of Rahul, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "Congress vice-president was present in CWC meeting, he said whatever party and committee will decide, he would be ready to take up any challenge. Rahul Gandhiji said he wants to fight for idea of India and whatever party workers decide he will be ready to take up that role."
However, a few contrasting reports said that Sonia will stay on as the president for at least a year till the time the Uttar Pradesh and Punjab Assembly elections conclude. This means that Rahul Gandhi's elevation, which already has gained massive momentum, will be delayed till the time these elections get over.
Hence, even though there are demands in the party that Rahul should take over the reigns of the party from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who is the longest serving president of the party, the timing is still under question.
Sources have told PTI that the organisational elections which will decide Rahul's fate are to be deferred by more than a year as there is very little time to hold the elections and the party has to focus on the upcoming assembly elections due early next year.
The organisational elections in Congress are overdue and the party had sought time from the Election Commission to complete the process by 31 December. The party had informed the poll panel about it as required under the rules.
At the meet Congress leaders expressed strong opinions against the Narendra Modi government. Rahul, in his opening address, lashed out at the Narendra Modi government for being "obsessed with power" and for "seeking to silence all those who disagree". Rahul's comments come days after the Congress vice-president was detained by the Delhi Police on two different occasions.
Democracy under the present dispensation was going through one of its darkest hours. Even TV channels were being punished, he said, referring to a one-day ban on NDTV India.
Surjewala condemned the Modi government for “diluting” the original draft of OROP introduced by the Congress government and implementing it as “one rank many pensions” scheme.
Senior leaders Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Janardan Dwivedi, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni and AK Antony were among those who attended the meet. Sonia Gandhi was absent from the party meet.
The CWC meeting comes at a time when many feel Congress President Sonia Gandhi should hand over the mantle to her son as she is suffering from ill health, especially after her roadshow in PM Narendra Modi's constituency of Varanasi on 2 August when she was hospitalised.
With input from agencies