Congress leader Salman Khurshid today called for immediate action to choose the next party president in the wake of Rahul Gandhi's resignation after the BJP's emphatic victory in the Lok Sabha elections. He also insisted that the party's top leadership conduct internal elections for the purpose.
"I absolutely don't know why (the Congress has not chosen a new chief yet). But I sincerely hope and pray that whatever we need to do and whatever we plan to do, we will do it soon and then get on with the future," the former Union Minister told NDTV in a televised interview.
The Congress leader, however, clarified that he was not in favour of Rahul Gandhi quitting the party's top position. "I think it is very sad. I belong to a group of people who did not relish the idea of his resigning. We felt that he should have carried on, but he feels very strongly and we accept his decision. I think one must respect his feelings about not staying on as president," he said. "But he has not left the party. He is still the tallest leader we have, and he remains active."
Rahul Gandhi had announced his plans to quit almost immediately after the Lok Sabha results showed the Congress slumping to a dismal 52 seats as opposed to the BJP's 303. He rejected repeated requests to stay on by party colleagues as well as allies in the United Progressive Alliance, and formally submitted his resignation letter on July 3. Suggestions that the top post be handed over to his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra or mother Sonia Gandhi were also turned down on the grounds that the Congress was not a "party of dynasts" despite the BJP's claims to the contrary.
Mr Khurshid maintained that the party should choose its next leader through internal elections, even if some exercises of the kind may have backfired in the past. "Every party should have internal elections, and we should have internal elections. Everybody supports that. I just hope that the person who takes up the position of president has shoulders broad enough to take on various responsibilities and see us through along that path," he said.
In an indication that the Congress is yet to come terms with Rahul Gandhi's resignation, a recent letter announcing the appointment of veteran leader Balasaheb Thorat as the Maharashtra Congress chief had cited the "party president's approval". A senior Congress leader later clarified to NDTV that Rahul Gandhi remains the Congress chief because the Congress Working Committee is yet to accept his resignation.
Party insiders claim that Rahul Gandhi was particularly pained by his defeat in Uttar Pradesh's Amethi, a constituency traditionally considered as a Congress stronghold. However, he still managed to get elected to the Lok Sabha through a face-saving win in Kerala's Wayanad.