New Delhi: It was former finance minister P. Chidambaram who first suggested that Sonia Gandhi take interim charge of the Congress, paving the way for the former president to make an unexpected comeback as party chief.
Party leaders, on the condition of anonymity, told ThePrint that Chidambaram put forward Sonia’s name at the marathon Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting Saturday, after incumbent Rahul Gandhi was adamant on quitting and a stalemate ensued during deliberations on picking his successor.
“After Chidambaram suggested her name, Ghulam Nabi Azad asked Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra) that if not Rahul, should Sonia be the next choice,” the senior leader said.
Priyanka, the Congress’ UP (East) in-charge, flagged the fact that Rahul had already made it clear that no one from the family should take over, the leader said. “But she was quick to add that if she (Sonia) agrees, then why not,” the leader added.
The leader said that the suggestion found resonance with other CWC members barring former defence minister A. K. Antony who insisted that the party should not ‘force’ Sonia.
“Antony said that the party should not force Sonia, and instead pay heed to whatever she decides,” said the senior leader.
Sonia was caught off guard
According to a second leader present at the meeting, Sonia was caught off guard by the suggestion, shook her head and declined to take charge.
But she eventually agreed after other CWC members including Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kumari Selja and Asha Kumari supported the move.
The CWC had Saturday sprung a surprise and named Sonia as the interim till organisational elections. The move came three months after Rahul resigned and 17 months after Sonia had made way for him.
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Scindia pushed for final solution
Congress party’s UP (West) in-charge and CWC member Jyotiraditya Scindia, said the leader, pushed for a final resolution on Saturday itself.
“As it seemed like no decision may be taken, it was Scindia who said that it doesn’t matter how late it gets, we will arrive at a decision today,” the senior leader said.
It led to a nearly 12-hour meeting Saturday.
Senior leaders also told ThePrint that no mention of any of the names making the rounds was taken up during the evening meeting. “No one mentioned Mukul Wasnik, Sushil Kumar Shinde or Mallikarjun Kharge,” said one of the leaders.
“There was a stray mention during the subcommittee meetings with people rooting for Priyanka, Scindia and (Sachin) Pilot, but not during the CWC,” he added.