The Congress top decision-making body, the Working Committee - met to select a leader on Saturday, nearly two months after Rahul Gandhi decided to step down from the party's top post. A final decision will be taken later Saturday night after consultation with state leaders and the leaders representing five zonal units, formed after a suggestion from Gandhi. After an initial appearance at the meeting, the 49-year-old and his mother, Sonia Gandhi, excused themselves from the day's session, saying they cannot be part of the selection process. Rahul Gandhi had quit after the party's disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha election. The sub-committees want Rahul Gandhi to continue as the party chief. If not, they want him to nominate a leader. But Rahul Gandhi is unlikely to accept the job.
After meeting for two hours, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Saturday decided to meet again in the evening to choose a new Congress president even as it renewed its plea to Rahul Gandhi to take back his resignation from the post. Many of the subgroups formed for consultations among state unit party leaders have named Rahul Gandhi to lead the party.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have consciously chosen to disassociate themselves from the process of choosing the successor.
A senior leader present in the meeting, that lasted from 11.10 am to 1.15 pm, said, “The CWC members urged Rahul Gandhi to reconsider his decision to resign but he remained adamant on quitting.”
Jyotiraditya Scindia then asked Rahul Gandhi to take some more time to reconsider his decision.
In his response, Rahul Gandhi said he was not escaping from the responsibilities of the party, but believed that after a new President is chosen, he will get more time to work for the party.
Earlier in the day, after emerging from the meeting, Sonia Gandhi told reporters that she and Rahul Gandhi are not part of the five sub-groups formed in the CWC to elect the new party chief.
When reporters told her that her name is present in the five region-wise groups formed to hold consultations, she said: “Rahul and I cannot participate in the election of the new party chief. Putting our names is not good.”
Rahul Gandhi told reporters: “I am going to Wayanad tomorrow for two days as the condition is very disturbing there” due to heavy rains.
The CWC, the party’s top decision-making body, met to elect a new party chief after Rahul Gandhi quit the post following the party’s miserable showing in the Lok Sabha elections.
The CWC has been divided into five region-wise sub-groups to hold further talks with the state in-charges, state party chiefs, AICC department chairman, party MPs and CLPs to build a consensus on the name of the new party chief.
According to party sources, all the sub-groups were in favour of Rahul Gandhi.
After holding consultations post the CWC, several members of the south group from Tamil Nadu were in favour of Rahul Gandhi to continue as party chief.
Besides Rahul and Sonia, the meeting of the CWC was attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior party leaders like Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Ahmed Patel, P. Chidambaram and several others.
The party informed those leaders who could not attend, including Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, that they would be contacted over phone and their recommendations would be noted.
The CWC will meet again at 8.30 p.m. to get final recommendations of the five groups.
The new Congress chief’s name will be finalised on Sunday, said a senior party leader.
Addressing the media, Congress national media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “The CWC unanimously appealed to Rahul Gandhi to lead the party as he is the best person for the top post at a time when the BJP-led government is assaulting democracy and undermining peoples’ rights.”
“His resignation is still pending approval of the CWC. But he is adamant on his decision, so a group has been formed for consultation with the party leaders to decide on the new chief,” Surjewala said.
He said the CWC has not accepted Rahul Gandhi’s resignation yet.
Scores of Congress activists protested outside the party headquarters demanding Priyanka Gandhi Vadra be made the party president.
“Priyanka Gandhi should be made the party chief as she has the capability to keep the party together,” said Jagdish Sharma, the worker who led the protestors.
However, Rahul Gandhi made it clear that no Gandhi family member will be made the party chief. (IANS)