The Congress party appears to have finally decided to entrust its future to Rahul Gandhi. Speculations are on that Rahul Gandhi, the present vice president of Indian National Congress (INC) may take over as Congress President soon but the party dismissed any such immediate possibility even as Sonia Gandhi remained tightlipped on the issue. Sources close to Rahul had been saying his taking charge as party president is a “matter of months”, but there has been no forward movement, triggering restlessness among a section of the leadership.
After months of, will he won't he, word coming out of the party seems that he will be elevated as its president, shortly. Importantly, there is a growing realisation within the party that two power centres at the top, one revolving around Sonia and the other around Rahul, are proving disastrous for the party.
Ever since the Congress’s defeat in Lok Sabha elections, there have been demands that Rahul take over as party president from Sonia Gandhi, who has been at the helm of the party for 18 years. A section in the party feels that Sonia should continue as party chief, while another feels that the earlier Rahul takes over the reins the better. Many senior leaders have openly expressed their wish in this regard. From the AICC podium, too, spokespersons have in the past said that “partymen want Rahul to take over”, but with a caveat that the final decision would be taken by him and the top leadership.
Leaders like Jairam Ramesh have said earlier that Rahul will be party president in 2016. According to the Former minister and senior Congress leader, “Rahul Gandhi is a Member of Parliament from Amethi. Rahul Gandhi is vice-president of the Congress party and we all expect Rahul Gandhi to become president of the Congress party in 2016… Rahul Gandhi obviously cannot be chief minister for 29 states… We all hope and expect…that he will be Congress president in 2016”, said Ramesh.
“We are a national party. There are certain procedures …When it comes to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi we all wholeheartedly accept (their leadership)” …We all want Rahul to take over, as and when (it will happen), we will make a proper statement”, said party spokesperson Sushmita Dev.
Then there are others, such as Digvijaya Singh who has spoken of the need to go in for a "deep surgery". “Today’s results disappointing but not unexpected. We have done enough Introspection shouldn’t we go for a Major Surgery ?” said Singh after Congress lost in Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal Assembly polls.
However, the BJP reaction can be summarized as Rahul Gandhi as Congress chief will be “achhe din for BJP”, says Smriti Irani, the HRD minister in the Modi government.
The Congress Working Committee had in September last year extended Sonia’s tenure as party chief for a year. Meanwhile, the internal election process that was meant to begin in July-August last year, which many believed would lead to the transition. .
Rahul was made party vice president in January 2013 at the Jaipur chintan shivir. Sonia Gandhi has been at the helm of the party since March 1998 and has created a record of sorts.
Whatever the case may be with regard to the elevation of Rahul Gandhi if at all, it happens. No incoming Congress president has ever come in under such difficult circumstances. The party finds itself squeezed politically; it has governments in just six states - of which Karnataka is the only major one. Put together, these states account for just about 7% of the country's population. The grand old party has a mere presence of just 44 seats (less that 10% of the total strength) in the Loksabha, the house whose members are directly elected by the Indian citizens. Moreover, the Congress hasn't won a single election on its own since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. By all means, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party have a huge mountain to climb!