Sonia Gandhi to be next Congress interim president
New Delhi, Aug 10: Sonia Gandhi would be the next Congress president, confirmed senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday after the second round of Congress Working Committee (CWC) today in the national capital. It was later clarified in the briefing that Sonia Gandhi would be the interim president.
After 78 days of hectic parleys, multiple rounds of meetings, many attempts to convince Rahul Gandhi to take back his resignation as party chief, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) held a meeting today to finalise on next Congress chief. The meeting held in during the afternoon today remained inconclusive.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi recused themselves from the consultation process saying they they cannot be part of it as they have been Congress presidents in the past and would not like the opinion of the party leaders to be influenced in any manner.
"Congress Working Committee (CWC) unanimously resolved to request Sonia Gandhi to take over as the Interim President, pending the election of a regular president by the AICC," said KC Venugopal.
At 11 am, the Congress' top brass, including ex-prime minister Manmohan Singh, party general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and P Chidambaram, went into a huddle at the All India Congress Committee headquarters here. The CWC decided to have consultations with leaders from across the country and it was divided into five groups for different regions -- northeast, east, north, west and south.
The CWC group for the northeast region included top party leaders such as Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni and former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat. The group for eastern region included AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, ex-Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and former Union minister Kumari Selja.
The northern region group included Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Jyotiraditya Scindia and P Chidambaram. The western region group was has leaders such as Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, A K Antony and Motilal Vora. The group for the southern region included Manmohan Singh, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his deputy Sachin Pilot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy were also part of the consultation process.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said several leaders who could not make it to New Delhi have been consulted over phone. The CWC, which is yet to accept Rahul Gandhi's resignation, began its first meeting by urging him to continue as party chief in the wake of the BJP's "onslaught on democracy and dissent", according to Surjewala.
Narayanasamy told reporters, "I told them that Rahul Gandhi should continue as AICC president. They asked me for an alternative, but I said there is none. We have to persuade him to withdraw his resignation because he is the only leader who can carry the party forward and strengthen it." Rahul Gandhi has already said the next party chief should be a non-Gandhi, making the task of Congress leaders difficult. He said that he will spend the next two days in his constituency Wayanad in flood-hit Kerala.
Clarity on the issue is expected tonight as Surjewala earlier said, "There is a sense that this impasse should end as soon as possible, which is why the CWC will meet again at 8 pm to take a call." He said Rahul Gandhi, while refusing to continue as party chief, asked the CWC to broad-base the consultation process and engage state chiefs, CLP leaders, MPs, and AICC secretaries.
A number of partymen have expressed their opinion in public that the delay in selecting the new Congress chief is harming the party. As the Congress began the process of finding Rahul Gandhi's successor, senior party leader Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday the new chief should be a person who can energise the party's organisation and inspire the voters, asserting that the Congress cannot afford "business as usual".
"For those following the #CWC meet to decide on a new @INCIndia President: My position remains what I first articulated more than a month ago: CWC should choose an Interim President asap (as soon as possible), then resign & announce open elections for both President & CWC," Tharoor tweeted.
The party has also been grappling with a series of desertions by leaders in Karnataka and Maharashtra, the latest being that by ex-Congress Rajya Sabha chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita and MP Sanjay Singh. With elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana coming up, the party is hoping to resolve the leadership issue quickly and move forward.