Crown of thorns ready: Stage set for Rahul Gandhi to take charge as Congress chief

Revamping party, winning major state polls, leading anti-Modi front among key tasks

Published: 21st November 2017 10:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2017 10:40 AM   |  A+A-

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi (C), party vice president Rahul Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh and other top party leaders at the Congress Working Committee meeting at 10 Janpath in New Delhi on Monday | PTI

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: As Rahul Gandhi prepares to take over the reins of the 130- year-old Congress party from his mother and party chief Sonia Gandhi in December, revamping the organisation, winning key assembly polls next year and forging Opposition unity ahead of the 2019 national elections to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be his three major challenges.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation would come just days before the Gujarat Assembly poll results on December 18 where he faces an uphill task of ending the BJP’s 22-year rule. He is investing huge energy and resources in Gujarat while building caste combinations to take on Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s juggernaut.

Once Rahul Gandhi becomes Congress chief in December, the new year 2018 will greet him with Assembly polls in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, being billed as a semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and would be an acid test of his leadership skills. All the four states would witness a direct Congress-vs-BJP fight. While the Congress rules Karnataka, the remaining three are with BJP.

“The state elections would impact the 2019 battle. They would pose a big challenge to Rahul,” Congress veteran Anil Shastri, son of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, told The New Indian Express.
Party insiders acknowledged that Rahul Gandhi would be vulnerable to criticism that the party has not won a single assembly election since he became vice president in 2013. His detractors blame him for the 2014 national poll debacle in which the Congress was reduced to just 44 Lok Sabha seats. A series of electoral reverses in Haryana, Maharashtra, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur followed. Punjab was an exception.

As party president, Rahul would have to handle allies like NCP’s Sharad Pawar, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, JD-U rebel Sharad Yadav, BSP’s Mayawati, DMK’s Karunanidhi and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, all of whom are habituated to dealing with Sonia Gandhi. Though Rahul has been leading Opposition protests inside Parliament, his attempts to rally forces with like-minded parties to take on Modi ahead of the 2019 LS polls would be closely watched.

CWC okays party poll schedule

The Congress Working Committee meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi, has approved the schedule for the election of party president, ending months of speculation. The nominations would open on December 1 and close on December 4. If no one challenges Rahul Gandhi, he would be declared elected unopposed. However, the Central Election Authority would wait till the last date for withdrawal on December 11 before announcing the result. In case of a contest, voting would take place on December 16. P11

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