Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday suggested that the way out of the current leadership crisis in the Congress is a comeback by Rahul Gandhi. "He should not give up after one defeat," he said, adding that it was "not fair" to push Sonia Gandhi to keep on working.
"Sonia Gandhi is a good leader but she is getting on (in years)... we are all getting on," Mr Singh said, referring to the 73-year-old who accepted the reins of the party on the repeated requests of its leaders after Rahul Gandhi quit the party president's post after the Congress was decimated in last year's Lok Sabha elections.
"Rahul Gandhi is polite but tough," said Mr Singh, known as a loyalist of the Gandhi family. Mr Gandhi has been firm on his refusal to take up the party's top post. At the time of stepping down, he had also stipulated that his mother or sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, cannot be roped in for the job.
But the Congress, under the leadership of the Gandhi family for most of the decades since Independence, had pushed Sonia Gandhi to take up the leadership again. Mrs Gandhi, who had not been in the best of health, had reluctantly agreed.
But a permanent solution to the leadership issue has eluded the Congress, which has been forced to watch Madhya Pradesh come perilously close to slipping out of its grip. A final decision on the leadership issue is likely next month, the party has indicated. While Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that he would not take up the job, it is not clear if Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Mr Singh said, is "perceptive", he said, and has the qualities of her mother Sonia Gandhi as well as her grandmother, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The Punjab Chief Minister brushed off the possibility of his taking the mantle of leadership - suggestion that has come from some quarters in view of his long association with the party and mass base.
"I won't be Congress president. I don't want to leave Punjab," the Chief Minister said, adding that he did not "like being an MP".
The Congress, he said, has gone through tough times. The party has "lost ground, but will recover".