NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi was declared president-elect of the Congress on Monday, marking a smooth change of guard in the 132-year-old party. He will formally take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi, two days before the crucial Gujarat Assembly election results are announced.
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Sonia became Congress president in 1998 and has been the longest-serving party chief. Rahul was made party vice-president in 2013. There had been major speculation over his elevation since the party lost the 2014 national elections. He faces the immediate challenge to win four Assembly polls in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh next year and prepare the party for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll battle.
Congress central election authority chairman Mullapally Ramachandran said, “Eighty-nine nomination papers proposing the name of Rahul Gandhi for Congress president were received. All nomination papers were found valid. Since the withdrawal date and time is over and as there is only one candidate, as per Article XVIII (D) of the Constitution of Indian National Congress, I declare Rahul Gandhi elected as president of the Indian National Congress.”
Gandhi will be officially handed over the certificate of his election as the party President on 16th December at the AICC headquarters, according to news agency ANI.
Though the result was a foregone conclusion right from the day Rahul filed his nomination on December 4 and was the only contestant, Ramachandran termed it a “historic day” and thanked Sonia for guiding the panel through the poll process.The announcement came on a day when Rahul campaigned in Gujarat. The Chief Election Commissioner will hand over the certificate of election to Rahul on December 16 at the party’s national headquarters here.
The announcement marked the end of the party’s internal elections, which had started in September and saw new office bearers getting elected from booth to the state level. The Congress said Rahul has earned the party’s top post, dismissing allegations that the election was a sham. “He has shown his mettle in Gujarat. The entire BJP, including the Prime Minister himself and 80 ministers, are sitting there for a month but are still unable to counter him,” said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad
Conducting the elections was not an easy job, said Ramachandran, adding that 42 provincial returning officers were deployed, supported by 71 assistant PROs and by 583 district ROs. These officials were all from other states to ensure an unbiased and impartial election, he said.Providing details of the party organisation, he said there are 8,86,358 Booth Committees, 9,418 Block Committees and 930 District and City Congress Committees in various states and Union Territories.Elections were held in more than 80 per cent of the booths as Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura would have Assembly elections this year and in 2018, he said.
As soon as the announcement was made, Congress workers erupted in celebrations near the party office in Delhi.
Uttarakhand: Celebration at Congress office in Dehradun after Rahul Gandhi elected as the party President. pic.twitter.com/6fWeG1bGYt— ANI (@ANI) December 11, 2017
"This is the worst time in India under present government. In such a time Rahul Gandhi has been elected as party President. In Gujarat, he has proved he is the only candidate who can be relied upon. He is facing Modi confidently," said former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi
Sidelined AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran greeted Rahul Gandhi for his elevation as Congress President, wishing him a 'sterling' tenure in a tweet.
Congratulations to @OfficeOfRG on being elected as Congress President unopposed. Wish you a sterling tenure in the footsteps of the illustrious past Presidents of the more than a century-old Congress party.— TTV Dhinakaran (@TTVDhinakaran) December 11, 2017
Later in the evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to congratulated the newly elevated Congress chief.
I congratulate Rahul Ji on his election as Congress President. My best wishes for a fruitful tenure. @OfficeOfRG— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 11, 2017
(With online desk inputs)