Rahul Gandhi's decision to resign as Congress president is "unfortunate", senior party leader Ahmed Patel has said, stressing that he will "always remain my leader". Ahmed Patel, who was handpicked by Rahul Gandhi's mother and former president Sonia Gandhi to mentor him, also called on party leaders to accept "accountability", a word used by Mr Gandhi in a long letter he released on Wednesday making public his decision to resign.
"Rahulji''s resignation letter is unfortunate. We all are accountable for this defeat. He has, in a short span, already made tremendous contributions in strengthening the party and we all believe his endeavour should continue," Mr Patel said in messages posted on social media last night.
Ahmed Patel, a close aide of Sonia Gandhi and a Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, followed that with a post thanking Mr Gandhi for providing "solid strength for the Congress".
He is and will remain my leader, our leader & will continue to provide solid strength for the Congress.— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) July 3, 2019
Rahul Gandhi, 49, quit yesterday after taking responsibility for a second straight national election defeat. "Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president," he had said in what was seen as his farewell letter.
The Congress only managed to win 52 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, a gain of only eight seats from the all-time low off 44 in 2014 polls. By contrast, rivals BJP won 303 seats this year, up from 282 in 2014.
"It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power, no one sacrifices power. But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle," Rahul Gandhi wrote, adding that it was unfair to call out others for poor performance and not hold himself responsible.
A new Congress president will be chosen "within a week", party sources told NDTV. The names of Sushil Kumar Shinde and Mallikarjun Kharge have emerged as possible candidates.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders like Digvijaya Singh and Ashok Gehlot expressed their support for Rahul Gandhi.
"We respect your sentiments Rahul-ji whether you are President or not you are my Leader and I am with you in your Ideological fight against the RSS/BJP," Mr Singh wrote on Twitter.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot took to Twitter to say the party is "very hopeful" that Rahul Gandhi would return "to lead the party forward, to a new and robust future."