NEW DELHI: A day before Rahul Gandhi formally takes over the Congress, his mother and outgoing chief Sonia Gandhi said her role was now to retire. The party, however, was quick to clarify she was retiring from party, not politics.
“My role in now to retire,” Sonia told a news channel.
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala tweeted:
Would sincerely request friends in the media to not rely upon innuendos.— Randeep S Surjewala (@rssurjewala) December 15, 2017
Smt. Sonia Gandhi has retired as President of Indian National Congress and not from politics. Her blessings, wisdom and innate commitment to Congress ideology shall always be our guiding light.
As Rahul, 47, takes the top party post on Saturday, there has been much speculation over what role Sonia, 71, would play, with some insiders hinting she could possibly head an advisory panel or continue to lead the Congress lawmakers in parliament.
Whatever Sonia’s new designation be, there are reasons for party managers to ensure she stays around. First, as the party longest serving president for 19 years since 1998, Sonia has grown with many veterans in the party, who feel more comfortable relating to her than Rahul. Second, key opposition leaders like NCP’s Sharad Pawar, RJD’s Lalu Prasad, CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP’s Mayawati, too share a better rapport with Sonia than Rahul.
As Congress president, the responsibility to take the old guard along and forge unity among the opposition would be Rahul’s two main challenges.
This kind of explains the sense of urgency the Congress displayed in clarifying Sonia’s future role, despite her ill health said the sources.
“If we have the benefit of both Rahul and Sonia’s presence, why not. Though everyone has welcomed Rahul’s elevation, Sonia will continue to play a significant role in the party,” said a senior AICC functionary.