This Article is From Oct 16, 2021

Rahul Gandhi Says "Will Consider" Becoming Congress Chief Again At Meet

Statements urging Mr Gandhi's return as party boss were made at Saturday's meeting of the Congress Working Committee - the party's highest decision-making body

Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress chief from his mother in 2017 and quit in 2019 (File)

New Delhi:

Rahul Gandhi has said he "will consider" returning as Congress President, sources said Saturday after it emerged that several senior leaders, including the chief ministers of Punjab, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, as well as former Defence Minister AK Antony, had urged the Kerala MP to come back.

Statements urging his return were made at Saturday's CWC meeting, at which it was decided that elections for the party's top post will be held between August 21 and September 20 next year.

"Entire Congress party and workers unanimously want Rahul Gandhi as leader," KC Venugopal said.

"Everybody agreed unanimously... whether he (Rahul Gandhi) will become or not is up to him. Everybody is of the opinion that Rahul Gandhi should become the party President," senior leader Ambika Soni was quoted by news agency ANI.

Former Union Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar told ANI: "Talks were held (about Mr Gandhi as party chief) and everyone unanimously said his name."

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Channi reportedly urged Mr Gandhi to take charge of the party now.

"I will consider..." Mr Gandhi replied, according to sources.

Rahul Gandhi quit as Congress chief two years ago after the party's horrendous showing in the 2019 Lok Sabha election; his resignation threw the party into a leadership crisis from which it has yet to fully recover and prompted the reinstatement of his mother, Sonia Gandhi, as interim chief.

This is far from the first time Mr Gandhi has been urged to come back.

In December last year, Randeep Surjewala declared "99.9 per cent want Rahul Gandhi as President" and, in January, the Delhi unit passed a resolution asking him to retake control.

The Delhi resolution was days after another CWC meet at which Mr Gandhi reportedly said: "Once and for all, finish it (internal elections) and move on."

So far Mr Gandhi has been steadfast in his refusal to return; when he quit in 2019 Mr Gandhi had called on someone not from the Nehru-Gandhi to lead the party (unthinkable for some).

However, while he says "no" to the top job, the Gandhis remain the centre of power and no big party decision is taken without their sign-off - another concern raised by the 'G-23'.

Saturday's calls also come as Mrs Gandhi underlined her position as a "full-time and hands-on" party chief; she was responding to critics - such as the 'G-23' - who have been pushing for an organisational overhaul and the election of "visible and effective leadership".


Sonia Gandhi has been interim chief of the Congress since Rahul Gandhi quit in 2019

Mrs Gandhi made number of pointed statements, including telling critics that a revival of the Congress was welcomed but "requires unity and keeping the party's interests paramount".

"Above all, it requires self-control and discipline. I am acutely conscious of the fact I have been interim Congress President ever since the CWC asked me to return in this capacity in 2019," she said, pointing out internal elections had been scheduled for June this year before Covid struck.

The 'G-23' was the name given to a group of senior Congress leaders, including veterans like Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor and Ghulam Nabi Azad, who have questioned the Gandhi family's leadership and called for sweeping organisational changes, including new internal polls.

At the CWC meet, the party also discussed key state polls next year, including in Punjab, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh. Sources said an overwhelming majority opted to have full-fledged internal polls rather than an interim one so the party could focus on these Assembly elections.

With input from ANI