Congress's Rahul Gandhi has categorically said that the party will have to find a new chief as he won't change his mind about stepping down from the post of the party chief, sources told NDTV. Mr Gandhi, who informed the party about his decision to quit following the party's decimation in the Lok Sabha polls, has refused to meet the party's newly-elected lawmakers who called on him. All his meetings and appointments have been cancelled, though he met two envoys from the party.
This morning, Mr Gandhi told senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and KC Venugopal that the party will have to find a new chief as his decision stands, sources told NDTV.
Sources say Rahul Gandhi "won't abandon the post" even though he is determined to quit, and will give the party time to choose a new person for the top job.
Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reportedly agree with his decision - they had initially tried to get him to change his mind - and acknowledge that the Congress "has to come to terms with the fact that there has to be a change of guard" and a total reset.
Sources also say Rahul Gandhi has not changed his mind, despite several Congress leaders pleading with him over the weekend and asking him to go for a full overhaul. Officially, the party told reporters on Saturday that Rahul Gandhi's resignation offer had been "unanimously rejected".
Ahmed Patel, however, later tweeted 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.
In a statement on Monday, the Congress 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 and await the calibrated efforts by the Congress party towards future course of action".
The statement came after reports that at the Working Committee on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi did some tough-talking, reminding party leaders that they had put their sons before the party and "pushed" for their candidature in the Lok Sabha polls. This, it was alleged, had drawn their attention away from the overall campaign in their states, he said, according to sources.
Mr Gandhi did not name anyone, but description is said to fit Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and senior leader P Chidambaram.
Mr Gandhi reportedly made it clear that he would not "vanish" and would continue to work for the party. "It is not necessary that the president should be from Gandhi family," sources quoted him as saying firmly. When Priyanka Gandhi's name came up as an alternative, Mr Gandhi reportedly said: "Don't drag my sister into it."
In the starkest symbol of the Congress's complete collapse in the election, Mr Gandhi also lost his traditional seat Amethi in Uttar Pradesh. He would not be in parliament had he not contested and won from Wayanad in Kerala.
The Congress was demolished in 17 states, including Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the states it won in December. The party also failed the test in Karnataka, another state it rules in alliance with HD Kumarasamy. Only in Punjab, where it has been in power since 2017, did Congress win eight of 13 seats. That too, in the backdrop of an unending feud between Navjot Sidhu and his boss, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Mr Gandhi said he took "100 per cent" responsibility for the party's failure and told the Congress Working Committee -- which comprises 52 members -- that he would like to exit as its top boss.
The Congress has mostly been led by members of the Nehru-Gandhi family except for several years after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (Rahul Gandhi's father) was assassinated in 1991. The party did not do well under Sitaram Kesri and several leaders convinced Sonia Gandhi to take over.