Sonia Gandhi's appointment as interim Congress chief has revived hopes in the party rank and file that she will be able to steer it out of the current problems with her experience and bring about a change in its fortunes. A section feels it was the "best decision" that will galvanise the partymen in these "challenging times".
However, some others say it has once again proved the dependence of the Congress on the Gandhis and that the party has a long way to go before it can come out of the family's shadow. A senior leader said there will be no change in leadership as it remains with the family. But, there are also voices within to allow the party to function democratically by holding early elections to the party president's post.
Demands for overhauling the party are being made amid calls for fixing accountability, an issue raised by Rahul Gandhi too when he quit as Congress president on May 25 following the Lok Sabha poll debacle. The change in leadership, many feel, may also help the old guard take control once again and the young brigade, which felt empowered under Rahul Gandhi's leadership, may have to take a back seat.
The decision has come at a time when the party suffered a humiliating defeat in Lok Sabha polls under Rahul Gandhi, with many leaders deserting it to join the BJP. Leaders feel the party sought Sonia Gandhi's leadership after Rahul Gandhi "failed" to build on successes in a few states under his short 20-month tenure as party chief.
Rahul wanted to overhaul the party but could not bring in structural changes amid an ongoing tussle between the old guard and the new generation leaders. Rahul Gandhi could only get back power in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and performed well in Gujarat, but could not wrest power from Narendra Modi-led BJP at the Centre
A leader said the choice could not have been better than Sonia Gandhi as she continues to hold sway over workers in the party, which has been struggling to keep its flock together. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor termed it as the "best decision" in current circumstances pending the election of a regular President by the AICC.
"Let elections allow party workers to decide who should lead them," he said. Congress chief ministers Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel too have hailed Sonia Gandhi's appointment, terming it as one of the "best decision" that could have been taken in these trying times.
Gehlot said, "I have full faith that under Sonia ji's leadership, all Congressmen would work with complete dedication." Sonia Gandhi has been strengthening the Congress Party with her strong leadership, her ability to take everyone together and her connect with the common people, he noted.
"It was the best decision in the current circumstances. Her experience and understanding will help guide Congress. I wish her and the party all the best," he said. Kamal Nath also said that in this period of challenges, everyone will benefit from her long experience and guidance and her efficient leadership will help strengthen the party further.
Bhupesh Baghel said, "Sonia ji's leadership has always been effective. At a time when the country is going through challenging times, we would stand shoulder to should with our new interim chief to together save the 'idea of India'." Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said Congressmen are happy and confident that the Congress will be further strengthened under Sonia Gandhi's leadership.
Another senior party leader Anand Sharma said, "We are all grateful to Sonia Gandhi for accepting request of the unanimous request of the CWC to be the Interim President of Congress, at this critical juncture when India faces numerous challenges." Former CWC member Anil Shastri said Congressmen across the country must have heaved a sigh of relief after Sonia Gandhi took charge as interim Congress President.
"I've always maintained that nobody other than the Nehru-Gandhi family would be acceptable to the party," he said. Congress MP from Punjab Ravneet Singh Bittu, however, demanded that there be revamp of the party and accountability be fixed for Lok Sabha poll debacle.
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