As speculation raged over the issue, Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh today said that time is right for Rahul Gandhi to take over from his mother as Congress President and favoured Priyanka’s entry into active politics.
“Sonia Gandhi is a brilliant leader. I have said that she has been working (as Congress President) for the last 20 years. If she feels that time has come to give it to a new generation, then she should pass it on and we will fully support Rahul (to take over),” he told a press conference here.
He was replying to a question whether time has come for Congress Vice-President to take over from Sonia Gandhi.
Singh said, “Look, she has not talked to me (on the issue). But what we are coming to know is that she is now feeling that the time has come for a new generation (to take over), which everyone today is saying.
“We are also saying so that 70 per cent of India’s population is under the age of 40 years. She also knows this, may be she feels she would like to hand it over to the new generation. I think there is nothing wrong in it.”
Asked if Rahul could take over this month itself, Amarinder said, “look, I do not know this. If Sonia wants to hand it over to Rahul ji, I think everybody will support”.
About Sonia, he said, “she has worked really hard. Let me tell you the amount of work she has put in since 1997, it is amazing”.
“Her way of work has been very intensive..Now, if she is feeling that the time has come for her to handover the baton to somebody else, then we must honour what she wants. I think we have gained so much from her over the last 20 years that if she herself wants to leave, then we must honour what she wants,” he said.
Asked if this will become a benchmark for party leaders who are over 70 years of age to quit in favour of younger generation, Amarinder replied, “No, its not a benchmark, everyone has his or her time. And everyone gets tired after a while.
“I have also announced that I am not going to fight another election. Why because I have done 47 years now.”
Amarinder Singh is leading the Congress’ campaign ahead of crucial 2017 Punjab assembly elections, where the opposition party is eyeing to wrest power from the SAD-BJP combine.
About Rahul Gandhi, Amarinder Singh said, “I have been interacting with Rahul as Vice-President. Executive decisions are being taken by him. I find him very perceptive, he asks pertinent questions and he agrees what you say, if he feels it is right.”
“Sonia is a brilliant leader, but you know we have to give (pause). Why am I wanting to quit (fighting 2017 as last elections), because I think enough is enough.
I think the new generation has emerged and the baton should be passed to the new generation,” he said.
“Similarly, I think Soniaji wants to do the same. Nobody is asking her to handover (the baton). It is her own thinking that she would like Rahul to take over. And that of course when the matter is put before the party, I am sure we will all endorse Rahul,” he said.
Asked if he has full faith in Rahul’s leadership, the former Punjab CM further said, “I have been interacting with him on many occasions. Everybody learns and I think in the last 4-5 years, he has learnt a lot. I am meeting him even tomorrow.”
When asked if he will make a good leader, he replied, “I am sure he will make a good leader.”
He also added that Rahul belongs to a family in which politics runs in its blood right from Moti Lal Nehru to Jawahar Lal Nehru to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
When asked what about Priyanka Gandhi, he said, “I hope she will come into (active politics). I have always suggested that she must come into this thing. She will be a great asset to the Congress President and the Vice-President.”
Asked if Rahul will get full support of the party, he said, “why not. There is a system of take over, it is not Amarinder Singh announcing or Sonia ji announcing, the party will meet on the issue.”