As Cong elects non-Gandhi chief, top leaders stress Gandhi family to play key role going forward

Over 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates form the electoral college to pick the party chief in a secret ballot.
Sonia Gandhi with Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi. (File Photo)
Sonia Gandhi with Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi. (File Photo)

NEW DELHI: With the Congress set to elect its first non-Gandhi president in over 24 years, senior leaders on Monday stressed the Gandhi family's guidance will be crucial and will play an important role in the party in the days to come.

The polls are significant as the new president would replace Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving Congress president who has been at the helm since 1998, barring the two years between 2017 and 2019 when Rahul Gandhi took over.

Voting for the Congress presidential polls began on Monday.

Senior leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor face-off for the post of the AICC chief.

Over 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) delegates form the electoral college to pick the party chief in a secret ballot.

Speaking to reporters after casting her vote at the AICC headquarters here, senior leader Ambika Soni asserted that the Gandhi family cannot be ignored and the party workers' attachment with them would remain.

Hailing Sonia Gandhi's contribution to the party, Soni said she played a key role in the formation of the UPA government and the Congress' win in the 2004 polls, beating the BJP's 'Shining India' campaign.

"This effort to separate them (Gandhis) will never succeed. Talk about issues such as price rise, prices are soaring," the former Union minister told reporters.

On the role leaders like her and Sonia Gandhi would play going forward, Soni said, "I don't have any role. I have served 52 years in the Congress party. I want Sonia-ji's role to be there as our guide, friend, philosopher, as MP, CLP. It will be there."

Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik said the Gandhi family has a very long history spread over 100 years and its members have played a very important role in the freedom struggle which nobody could disregard.

"After getting independence also, they have contributed immensely in building a modern India. When time demanded, they even made the supreme sacrifice, nobody can forget the sacrifices made by Indira-ji, Rajiv-ji and the contribution of Jawaharlal Nehru in giving a vision for the building of modern India," he said.

"The Gandhi family will continue to play a very important role. Sonia Gandhi will be demitting her office after the new president is elected but there is no doubt that she has been our leader and will continue to be our leader. We will look towards her for inspiration and guidance from time to time," Wasnik said.

Rahul Gandhi also has a set of ideas on how to go forward, and his guidance will also be absolutely invaluable for the party, he added.

Congress spokesperson and in-charge for Sikkim, Tripura and Nagaland Ajoy Kumar asserted that it was a historical moment as he slammed the BJP for its criticism of the AICC presidential polls.

"None of us know how J P Nadda got selected, two-and-a-half people decided, one Modi, one Shah and a half RSS. So such a party commenting on polls is a joke," he said.

"A truly democratic party, we have our challenges, but you will see a huge amount of goodwill for whoever is elected as president," Kumar said.

Noting that Rahul Gandhi is undertaking a 3,500-km Kanyakumari to Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra, he said it was such a difficult task and Gandhi was without doubt a crowd-puller.

"Who is pulling the crowds for the Yatra? So, why will the person not be important," Kumar asked.

"Whether it is Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka-ji or other tall leaders, there are a lot of people, Sachin Pilot, Ashok Gehlot, everyone is there.

Mr Gandhi is one of the tallest leaders among our group," he added.

Both Kharge and Tharoor have emphasised that the Gandhis hold a special place in the party with Kharge having said that he would seek their "guidance" and "suggestions", and Tharoor having asserted that no Congress president can function keeping a distance from the Gandhi family as their DNA runs in the party's blood.

In the post-Independence era, members of the Gandhi family have been at the helm of the party for around 40 years in total.

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