Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Monday filed his nomination for the post of party president, heralding a generational shift in the leadership of the grand old party seeking a revival in its electoral fortunes. With no other claimants in the fray and today being the last day for filing nominations, his elevation as Congress president is almost certain, party sources said. The 47-year-old Gandhi scion is set take over the party’s reins from Sonia Gandhi, who has steered the party for 19 years, including the 10 when it led the UPA government. Accompanied by a host of senior party leaders, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi filed his papers before the party’s Central Election Committee. Sonia Gandhi, one of the leaders who proposed Rahul’s name, was not present during the nomination filing. With speculation over whether or not Rahul Gandhi — who was appointed vice president in January 2013 — will step into his mother’s shoes finally ending, the party’s leaders hailed the day as “historic”. They exuded confidence that he will carry forward the party’s traditions and lead it to victory in the next general elections in 2019. The move also comes just ahead of the elections in Gujarat, which goes to the polls on December 9 and 14.
In 2014, the Congress was reduced to its lowest-ever tally of 44 seats in the Lok Sabha and has since suffered a series of electoral defeats at the state level. “Rahul ji has been the darling of the Congress…Rahul Gandhi will carry on the great traditions of the Congress party,” the normally taciturn Manmohan Singh told reporters at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters after Rahul Gandhi filed his papers. He said Congress president Sonia Gandhi had served the Congress party and the country for 19 years. “This is yet another step forward in that direction,” he added. While there were several nomination forms filed on behalf of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice president personally filed two sets.
The first nomination form was filed by him and proposed by Sonia Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Ahmed Patel, Mohsina Kidwai, Kamal Nath, Sheila Dikshit, Ashok Gehlot, Mukul Wasnik, Tarun Gogoi and V Narayanasamy. All leaders except Sonia Gandhi were present. The second nomination form was proposed by Manmohan Singh, Siddaramaiah, Oscar Fernandes, P Chidambaram, Sushilkumar Shinde, Jyotiraditya Scindia, T Subbarami Reddy, Jaipal Reddy, Mukul Sangma and Anand Sharma.
Three more forms were filed on behalf of Gandhi by other senior leaders. These included Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ambika Soni, Amarinder Singh, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, C P Joshi, Selja, K C Venugopal and Salman Khurshid, besides Janardan Dwivedi, Shivraj Patil, Meira Kumar, Harish Rawat, Avinash Pande and B K Hariprasad. The man who could be the next party president arrived at the Congress headquarters around 10.30 am and filed his papers around 11 am. “We are very happy that Rahul Gandhi ji has filed his nomination…I am confident that Rahul will turn out a very successful leader. And under his leadership, the Congress will regain power,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Taking a swipe at the BJP, he said several parties, including the ruling party which has no history of uniting the country, had issues with the nomination. “There cannot be a bigger joke than the current ruling party talking about democracy. Those who don’t believe in democracy, in people, those who have to trust in machines to win votes, are preaching us on democracy,” he said.
His colleague Anand Sharma described it as a “historic moment” and said there are challenges before the country as the government had failed to deliver. “Shri Rahul Gandhi will accept the responsibility in continuity with the established traditions of the Congress. We want to make this absolutely clear that it is a conscious and considered decision of the Congress party,” he said.
Before filing his nominations, Rahul Gandhi sought the blessings of former president Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh besides his mother. “We have received a total of 89 nominations,” Mullapally Ramachandran, the chairman of the party’s Central Election Authority, said at a press conference.
Asked whether there was a candidate other than Rahul Gandhi in the fray, he said that will be known only after the scrutiny tomorrow. The last date for withdrawal of the candidature is December 11. The poll, if necessary, will be held on December 16 and the counting will take place on December 19.