Even as Rahul Gandhi is running the party for all practical purposes, he reportedly wants the takeover through “due process” and organisational elections.
Even as Sonia Gandhi on Saturday said, “I am a full-time and hands-on Congress president”, sending a clear message to the G23 group that the reins of the party remain at the hands of Gandhis, several party leaders expressed their wish that they Rahul Gandhi to return as the Congress chief.
As per the schedule for organisational elections approved by the top decision-making body of the party on Saturday, Gandhi will continue as interim president for nearly a year more, with polls for the post of AICC president to take place between August 21 and September 20, 2022.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and and AICC general secretary Harish Rawat asked Rahul to take over immediately without waiting for the organisational elections. Notably, Rahul, who has been showing his unwillingness to take up the post ever since he stepped down in 2019, seemed less reluctant this time as he said he would “consider” it and can’t be “bullied”.
However, even as he is running the party for all practical purposes, he reportedly wants the takeover through “due process” and organisational elections.
“He does not want to take over just because some CWC members have asked him… If somebody wants to contest against him… they can do so,” a party leader was quoted by The Indian Express as saying.
While the call for Rahul to take over as Congress president was started by A K Antony, almost every other leader including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Ambika Soni and Randeep Singh Surjewala — echoed the former.
With party leaders clearly lining up behind the Gandhis, the G-23 leaders appeared much mellowed Saturday. On Saturday, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and the third G-23 member present, Mukul Wasnik, attended the CWC meeting, and were indirectly attacked by other party leaders who rallied behind the Gandhis. In fact, Azad and Sharma hailed the election schedule announced after the deliberations at the CWC meeting and congratulated Sonia for scheduling polls at all levels of the organisation.
Azad and Sharma said that they had never questioned Gandhi’s leadership. Sharma added that he was party to the CWC decision that had asked Gandhi to take over as Congress president after Rahul had stepped down. Sharma also pointed out that Rahul had abruptly resigned at the time, ignoring requests to reconsider.
The G-23 leaders had been demanding that a CWC meeting be convened, with Sibal last month wondering who in the party was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president. He has asserted that the G23 leaders’ grouping is “not a Jee Huzur 23”. Former leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Azad had also written to Sonia Gandhi to convene a meeting of the CWC at the earliest.