- Sonia Gandhi earlier slashed her political duties due to health issues
- Mrs Gandhi told aides she won't be able to take the job even temporarily
- Rahul Gandhi quit as Congress president after the Lok Sabha debacle
The Congress, unravelling in several states after its national election debacle, has urged Sonia Gandhi to take charge as interim president to help the party tide over its bleakest hour. So far, the former Congress president had said no to the role that her son Rahul Gandhi has just relinquished, owning responsibility for the party's abysmal show in the Lok Sabha polls.
Asked by NDTV today about the possibility of taking over as interim Congress president, Sonia Gandhi was non-committal.
Sonia Gandhi was Congress president for 19 years, a period which covered 10 years of UPA rule, before she handed charge to her son Rahul in 2017.
The 72-year-old, who significantly slashed her political duties because of health problems, has told her close aides that it will not be possible for her to take on the top job even temporarily, that it would be a challenge.
Flailing after Rahul Gandhi's resignation and his firm refusal to reconsider it, many senior Congress leaders have met with Sonia Gandhi and pleaded with her to step in, say sources.
The party's desperation has grown as it fights crises in state after state. Despite her resolve, Sonia Gandhi did intervene when multiple resignations dragged the party's Karnataka coalition into a mess.
Sonia Gandhi met with Sowmya Reddy, whose father Ramalinga Reddy, an old Congress warhorse, quit on Saturday. Sowmya Reddy said she and her father were both disillusioned with the party, but she did attend a headcount meet of Congress lawmakers earlier this week.
Neck-deep in the Karnataka crisis, the Congress failed to see the warning signs in neighbouring Goa, until most of its lawmakers in the seaside state quit and merged with the BJP - a repeat of what happened in Telangana, where 12 of 18 lawmakers jumped ship.
Rahul Gandhi's exit has spurred a flurry of resignations across the country, including by several state unit chiefs.
Top leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora have also quit.
So far, the Congress has failed to build consensus on a replacement for Rahul Gandhi. It hasn't helped that the 49-year-old has vowed to stay out of the selection process.
An indecisive leadership and a vacuum at the very top has further enabled a steady stream of desertions.
Adding to the disarray, infighting in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan has gone public.