Congress chief Rahul Gandhi led the campaign for the party in the national election
- Congress planning to hold another meeting of its Working Committee
- Congress has been led mostly by members of the Nehru-Gandhi family
- Rahul Gandhi told party he is not backing down on his decision to quit
The Congress is planning to hold another meeting of its Working Committee this week to discuss possible candidates for the post of the party chief, sources told NDTV. Rahul Gandhi has categorically said he is not backing down on his decision to quit as the Congress president, made after the party's crushing defeat in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. But party leaders still plan to ask him to reconsider the matter, sources said.
Sources said at Saturday's meeting of the Working Committee where he offered to resign, Rahul Gandhi also asked the leaders not to consider his mother and sister as his replacement, throwing the party -- already shell-shocked by its defeat -- into a dilemma.
The Congress has been led mostly by members of the Nehru-Gandhi family since Independence. It did not do well under Sitaram Kesri - who took over after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for a few years -- and several leaders had convinced Sonia Gandhi to take over.
But after the party's decimation in the Lok Sabha election, where it failed to win a single seat in 17 states and union territories, Mr Gandhi said he did not wish to continue as the party president.
He has, however assured that he would give the leaders time to look for a successor and continue in the party as a "disciplined soldier", sources said.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor told NDTV that Mr Gandhi has taken the defeat "on the chin and is taking it personally". The issues facing the party are "too important to be reduced to a question of an individual" and "it is unfair to Rahul Gandhi and to the Congress party", he said.
About the party's unwillingness to accept anyone not from the Nehru-Gandhi family as its president -- a stance that has drawn unlimited attacks by the BJP over the years -- Mr Tharoor said: "The party's own conviction has been for some time that we are most effectively led by the Gandhi-Nehru family."
All of Mr Gandhi's meetings and engagements have been cancelled since Saturday. On Monday, senior leaders Ahmed Patel and KC Venugopal met Mr Gandhi.
Ahmed Patel, though, said later that the meeting was about "routine administrative work".
"I had sought time before the CWC to meet the Congress President to discuss routine administrative work. The meeting on Monday was in that context. All other speculation is incorrect and baseless," his tweet read.
The Congress has asked the media to "respect the sanctity" of the closed-door meeting of its working committee and "not fall into the trap of conjectures or speculations".
The party has won 52 seats -- marginally above the 44 it won last time.
It lost even in the states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh that it won in December, and failed the test in Karnataka, which it has been ruling since May in alliance with HD Kumarasamy. Only in Punjab, where it has been in power since 2017, the Congress won eight of 13 seats. But that took place in the backdrop of an unending feud between Navjot Sidhu and his boss, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
In the starkest symbol of the Congress's complete collapse in the election, Mr Gandhi also lost his Amethi, which voted consistently for the party for almost three decades.