After a marathon meeting, India’s grand old party Congress on Saturday named Sonia Gandhi as interim president until a full-time chief is chosen.
Sonia’s return as interim chief comes ahead of some state elections later this year.
Sonia, wife of late prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and daughter-in-law of late PM Indira Gandhi, had served as party president for 19 years from 1998 to 2017 until her son Rahul Gandhi took over in December 2017. Rahul stepped down 18 months later following the party’s humiliating defeat in the general elections in April-May this year.
While resigning, he wanted a young and non-Gandhi member to be the new president but party veterans insisted he alone should lead them.
In Saturday’s meeting, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) reaffirmed their faith in his leadership but Rahul refused to budge and angrily walked out of the meeting. His mother was finally forced to accept the role as interim president.
The meeting ended around 11pm and senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad emerged from the party office to announce Sonia’s appointment.
Accepting Rahul’s resignation, the CWC passed a resolution thanking him for inspiring young party members.
Rahul fought against forces of bigotry, hate and prejudice. Setting an example, he took responsibility for the party’s poll debacle and resigned, the committee said.
Earlier in the day, veteran leaders Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge were seen as strong contenders for the party president’s post. The chances of a young leader replacing Rahul appeared remote.
Welcoming Sonia’s new role, Punjab chief minister and Congress leader Amarinder Singh tweeted this is the the best decision in the current circumstances. Her experience and understanding will help the party find a new leader, he wrote.
Let elections allow party workers to decide who should lead them, another leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted.
While a non-Gandhi member may ultimately emerge as the new president, the party wants the Gandhi family to lead them.