The Congress’s top decision-making will meet today to choose a new party president, over two months after Rahul Gandhi quit, owning responsibility for the party’s national election debacle. Though veteran leader Mukul Wasnik has emerged as the frontrunner for the post, Mr Gandhi wants broader consultations before a decision is made, sources said.
At a meeting of Congress leaders on Friday, Rahul Gandhi said a new Congress president should be chosen after more consultation with state leaders and the legislature party, sources said. In the meeting, it was decided that leaders of the Congress’s state units and the legislature parties will be invited to take part in the meeting today to appoint a new party president.
“I am happy that the Congress is under pressure and this will jolt the Congress into action,” Mr Gandhi is learnt to have told the party leaders, according to news agency.
A non-Gandhi may be party president for the first time in two decades as the Congress Working Committee meets tomorrow. Mukul Wasnik a former minister with much administrative experience is expected to take charge at least till the organisational election.
In its 134-year history, India’s oldest political party has mostly had a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family in charge. But at a time all three Gandhis are in politics, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have refused to be a part of the process.
The Congress Working Committee will formally thank Rahul Gandhi, 49, for his role as president, the sources said, indicating that the party had officially given up attempts to persuade the him to withdraw his resignation.
Top leaders including AK Antony, Ahmed Patel and KV Venugopal were at the meeting at Sonia Gandhi’s house. Sources say the leaders decided that there would be no more delay on picking the next Congress president.
Mukul Wasnik, say sources, is seen as a strong choice to repair the Congress’s organizational weaknesses with his long administrative record.
Mr Wasnik has worked in the Congress governments of PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. He has also worked as general secretary for Sonia Gandhi.
Several Congress leaders such Shashi Tharoor have sounded a warning for the party, saying that the delay in selecting the new Congress chief is harming the party.
Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said any further delay in the selection of the new party chief was not an option. “On Saturday, a consensus builder party President of Congress must be selected. Slightest delay is not an option,” he wrote on Twitter. “In lighter vein, I gave analogy of wise men of Vatican locked in a room indefinitely until they got a nomination! Subsequently, it has to be followed by full intra party elections,” Mr Singhvi added.