NEW DELHI: Maintaining that the party will "cease to exist" if a person from Nehru-Gandhi family does not lead it, Congress leader Anil Shastri has said that if Rahul Gandhi does not want to be party chief then Priyanka Gandhi Vadra should take the role.
Anil Shastri, who is the son of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri, also took a dig at members of "Group of 23" who have been pressing for elections to Congress Working Committee saying that most of them have been appointed to their posts through nomination.
Shastri's remarks came after the Congress Working Committee last week decided that the elections to the post of Congress president would be held by June this year.
Rahul Gandhi has so far not given an indication that he will seek re-election as party chief. He had resigned from the post after the party's debacle in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress remained "in limbo" for several months following his resignation and Sonia Gandhi was later persuaded to be interim chief.
Shastri said it is up to Rahul Gandhi to decide if he wants to be the party president but "only Gandhis can run the party otherwise the party will cease to exist".
"If Rahul Gandhi does not want to be the president then Priyanka Gandhi should lead the party as she has a charismatic personality and the party workers see an image of Indira Gandhi in her," he said.
Shastri noted that apart from Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, there is no other leader in Congress "who is popular among the party's rank and file from Kashmir to Kanyakumari".
He also lauded the contribution of Sonia Gandhi in making the party strong.
He said Congress was on a relatively weak footing in the nineties when Congress was led by PV Narasimha Rao and then by Sitaram Kesari.
"It gained strength after Sonia Gandhi took the leadership of the party. We respect the contribution of Soniaji who made the party strong. Under her leadership, Congress ruled the country for 10 years. Unfortunately, we lost the last two general elections, but I do not want to go into the details of that. Gandhis are the force that can unite the party. There is no other leader in the party who can replace them," Shastri said.
He said if Congress elects "a non-Gandhi president" in June, then the person would not be able to get the same "acceptability" as a member of Gandhi family.
"They would not be able to unite the party as this (Gandhi) family had done," he said.
Hitting out at leaders demanding elections to Congress Working Committee, Congress Central Election Committee and formation of Congress Parliamentary Board, he said leaders making such a demand are "giving the excuse of revamping".
"Were they elected for their posts? Most of them got appointed to their posts through nomination. It is good to have an election in the party as it makes the cadre strong but I don't know the motive and perspective of the leaders behind the demand at this time," he said.
The Congress leader said the internal elections in the party have been delayed because assembly elections are due in four states and a union territory and it is not "possible or practical to have internal elections now".
He said PV Narasimha Rao had discontinued the practice of having a parliamentary board.
"After that, it was never formed. Congress Working Committee elections were held earlier and they will be held again," Shastri added.
He recounted that Lal Bahadur Shastri took pride in calling himself an "elected" member of the 'Allahabad district Congress Committee.
"My Father Lal Bahadur Shastri was elected member of the Allahabad district Congress Committee. He used to say this with pride. Jawaharlal Nehru was elected president of the Allahabad District Congress Committee. Indira Gandhi was elected president of Allahabad city Congress Committee. All of them were elected members and that is why the party was strong. I believe elections should happen in the party to form a strong cadre," he said.