Sonia completes 10 years of Congress Presidency

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New Delhi, Mar 14 (UNI) Ms Sonia Gandhi today completed ten years as Congress President, becoming the longest serving chief of India's oldest political party.

There was no formal celebration to mark the occasion. However, party workers came in groups to her official 10 Janpath residence and shouted slogans from outside, congratulating her on completing ten years.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Working Committee members and senior leaders of the Party called on her at her residence in the morning and greeted her with bouquets and shawls.

On behalf of the CWC, which had passed a resolution yesterday on the eve of her completing 10 years in Congress Presidency, Dr Singh prsented a silver plaque to Ms Gandhi.

Ms Gandhi later left for Hyderabad to inaugurate the new airport there.

"Ms Gandhi will continue to remain as our Chief Mascot," AICC spokesman Abishek Manu Singhvi told mediapersons.

He said the Congress Party was proud about Ms Gandhi completing 10 years as the Party President.''We are proud that she had ensured the unity of the Party which has been tied with one golden thread since 1998.'' He said the hall mark of her Presidency was the compassionate and inclusive governance. "Ms Gandhi's self sacrificing and self effacing approach to power and politics is truly unique" and helped to rejuvenate the party, besides creating a pan- Indian footprint after "dark days of 1997 and 1998." Political analysts say Ms Gandhi's decade-long stint was the toughest ever for any leader in the 123-year-old history of the Party as she was burdened with the task of managing a coalition government for the first time at the Centre.

The high point of her Presidency was the victory of the Congress Party and its allies in the 2004 May Lok Sabha elections after eight years in the wilderness.

Though she was singularly credited for the victory of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, she renounced the post of Prime Minister in favour of her close confidante and renowned economist Manmohan Singh.

Her "sacrifice" took her stature as a political leader to new heights. "There is no parallel not only in India but in the world to compare with the spontaneous self sacrificing spirit of her approach," Dr Singhvi said.

She did not think twice to resign from the Lok Sabha in 2006 following the office-of-profit controversy. She, however, soon returned to the Lower House after fighting the election from her Rae Bareli constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

The Italy-born widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi remained in the backstage for nearly seven years after the assassination of her husband in 1991.

As the leadership of Mr P V Narasimha Rao and Mr Sitaram Kesari could not provide unity among the leaders in the party, she was left with no option but to take over the reins of the party on March 14, 1998 and provide the much needed "rallying" focus for the groupism-torn party.

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