NEW DELHI, Dec. 11: Along expected lines, Rahul Gandhi was elected as Congress president unopposed on Monday, signalling a generational shift in the Grand Old Party, which his mother Sonia Gandhi shouldered for 13 years. The announcement was made by the Congress’ Central Election Authority chairman Mullapally Ramachandran.
Ramachandran said the 47-year-old leader would formally take over the reins of the party on December 16, two days before the declaration of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly election results.
Sonia Gandhi will officially hand over the mantle of the 132-year-old party to her son around 11 am on December 16 after which Rahul will meet leaders from across the country at the Congress headquarters, party leaders said. A press release from the Congress said a total of 89 nominations were received in Rahul’s favour and they were found to be valid during scrutiny.
Even though there was no other candidate who filed their nomination for the post, Ramachandran had said they would go by the book and the official announcement of his election would be made only on December 11, the last date of withdrawal of nominations.
Of the 15 people who led the party post independence, four belonged to the Gandhi-Nehru family. With Rahul Gandhi taking over as the president, he will be the fifth. The Nehru-Gandhi clan was at the helm of affairs of the
party after independence for 38 years: Nehru for three years, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi for eight years each, and Sonia Gandhi for a record 19 years.
Reacting to the elevation, party veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad said Rahul Gandhi had shown his mettle much before his election. “Entire country has lots of expectations from Rahul Gandhi. Much before he was elected he has shown his mettle. He knows his responsibility,” Azad said.
Sounding a sort of warning to the BJP, Azad said, “The entire BJP, including the PM himself, 80 ministers are sitting in Gujarat for a month but are still unable to counter him.”
However, as pleasing the news might be for the party workers and cadres, the task at hand for the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family is not so hunky dory. Rahul faces the daunting task of restoring lost glory to the party whose fortunes have been dwindling in the recent past and shoring up its alliance base.
Striking a balance between the old guard and the young leaders would be a key to running the party that has many seasoned politicians and whose brains Gandhi can pick to steer the party. Gandhi had said in the past that he would draw upon a blend of experience of the old and the energy of the young.
Even though Rahul has been the face of the party for the past two years and has led the election campaigns owing to ill heath of his mother, party leaders have said Sonia would continue to play the role of a mentor. The elevation comes amid a resurgence of the Congress leader who has been recently hogging the limelight on social media and has powered a spirited campaign for the party in Gujarat.
A win in the crucial western state would come as a massive boost for Gandhi. It remains to be seen if the festive mood at 24, Akbar Road (Congress headquarters) lasts till December 18. TIE