Rahul Gandhi, speaking at a meeting of the Congress's top decision-making body on Sunday, insisted that he did not want to continue as party president after its debacle in the national election. He remained firm on his decision to quit even after the party unanimously rejected it.
"We have to continue our fight. I am and will remain a disciplined soldier of the Congress and continue to fight fearlessly. But I do not want to remain the party president," Rahul Gandhi, 48, told the Congress Working Committee, which includes his mother Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
The Congress, shell-shocked after its 52-seat haul -- only a few more than its historic low of 44 in 2014 -- stuck to the template as it responded to its party president's mea culpa in a four-hour post-mortem. Party leaders praised Rahul Gandhi and authorized him to go for a complete overhaul of the party.
But he insisted that someone else should handle that job.
When the name of Priyanka Gandhi came up as an option, Mr Gandhi reportedly said, "Don't drag my sister into it."
He added: "It is not necessary that the Congress president should be from the Gandhi family."
At a press conference after the meeting, Congress leaders said they had "unanimously and in one word" rejected Mr Gandhi's offer to resign.
"We need Rahul Gandhi to guide us in these challenging times," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
But Rahul Gandhi's silence after the meeting and his absence at the press briefing was seen by many as a sign that the party was finding it tough to talk him out of his decision.
Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi reportedly tried, but later told party leaders that his wish should be respected.
Both Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned extensively across the country in this election. But the end result was a bigger disaster for the party than ever. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP and its allies won a spectacular mandate of over 350 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha to continue for a second term.
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