New Delhi: The Congress has begun work on its biggest battle: to find a successor to Rahul Gandhi as party president, someone who can take on the onerous task of resurrecting the grand old party after suffering two of the biggest defeats.
After two hours of a meeting of the party’s top decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee, on Saturday to pick the new Congress chief, both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi walked out of the AICC headquarters in central Delhi.
Once outside, Sonia Gandhi said it would be improper for them to be present during the consultation process. Inside the CWC, she told the party leaders that staying on would lead to a “conflict of interest”. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, however, stayed on as she is a general secretary in the party.
A decision on the next Congress chief, sources said, could be expected as early as Saturday night, but for now it is clear that, for now, the Gandhi era is over.
By leaving the meeting, the Gandhis signalled that Congress would get a chief without a Gandhi surname for the first time in more than 20 years, moving away from the “dynastic politics”, which has paid such rich dividends for the BJP.
But the hunt for that suitable successor has been far from smooth as more than two months after Rahul Gandhi announced his decision to resign, the Congress still suffers because of that leadership vacuum.
Veteran leader Mukul Wasnik and former Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, have emerged as the frontrunners for the post, but there is a degree of uncertainty over whether a consensus would emerge over their names after Rahul Gandhi threw open the process to wider consultations on Friday.
No more will just the Central Working Committee get to decide on its own as after Gandhi’s prod, the CWC set up five committees to cover all the regions and states to give and discuss names. This came after a late night meeting, when Rahul Gandhi heard the voice of the state leaders, who said they should also be involved.
The committees will deliberate on Saturday, after which they are expected to submit their report to the CWC by the evening. Apart from Wasnik and Kharge, other names like Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia have also been pitched by the likes of Milind Deora. Punjab CM Amarinder Singh also said that a young leader should be appointed to take the party forward.
A top leader said there could be various scenarios – the CWC can either appoint a provisional president or task a group of leaders with finding a new president in the event of sharp divisions. Or it could announce a timeline to hold elections for the post of Congress chief.