New Delhi: Preparations are on in the Congress to bring Rahul Gandhi back as party president, about six months after he quit the post following the party’s drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections.
A meeting of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) is being planned early next year where interim party president Sonia Gandhi may step down to make way for her son’s return at the helm, party leaders familiar with the move have told ThePrint.
“It [AICC meeting] was earlier planned for December and was supposed to be held at Udaipur,” a Congress functionary said.
“It has now been rescheduled for early next year. There should be more clarity on the date and venue by the end of December.”
A second Congress functionary said Rahul’s return was inevitable and could happen anytime after 15 January. The leader added, however, that Rahul is “reluctant” to take charge again.
Sources in the party said Rahul loyalists, especially from the Youth Congress, ran the hashtag campaign #MyLeaderRG on Twitter Monday as a build-up to his return.
However, Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, the party’s general secretary in-charge for Bihar, refuted the speculation and said the AICC session was nothing out of the ordinary.
“There will be a session as it’s a new year,” he said. “Its agenda and mandate will eventually be decided.”
Asked about the alleged plan to re-install Rahul as Congress president in the run-up to or at the AICC meeting, Gohil said, “No such decision has been taken.”
Road to Rahul’s return
Rahul took over as party chief in 2017 and resigned in July 2019 after the Congress’ dismal performance in the general elections — the Congress won all of 52 seats as the BJP bolstered its majority.
Rahul said he was “taking responsibility” for the party’s poor show and refused to heed repeated pleas from senior party leaders to reconsider his decision.
He had felt isolated in the party in the run-up to and the aftermath of the Lok Sabha elections and was known to be miffed with party veterans. In his resignation letter, Rahul wrote, “At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it.”
But the former party chief had not closed the doors on returning as party president.
“I am available to the party whenever they require my services, input or advice,” Rahul had said in his resignation letter this July.
Following his exit, an ailing Sonia reluctantly returned as interim chief.
Party leaders say Sonia has only been “keeping the seat warm until Rahul returns”. According to them, even now, she doesn’t make any decisions without consulting him.
‘Only a genuine call will persuade Rahul’
According to the second Congress functionary quoted above, the AICC session is likely to be held after the Jharkhand and Delhi elections as the party is testing the waters.
“As far as I know, Rahul doesn’t want to return to the helm,” he said. “He is still reluctant.”
The leader added that only a “genuine call” from party leaders showing their faith in him could convince him.
Since putting in his papers, Rahul has been spending most of his time abroad, drawing flak from his political adversaries as also his detractors within the party. He addressed barely half-a-dozen election rallies in Maharashtra and Haryana, but the party’s performance in these states turned out to be much better than expected.
The Congress went on to join the coalition government in Maharashtra. In Haryana, it was in a neck-and-neck contest through much of results day but the BJP ultimately won more seats than the Congress and then sealed an alliance with the Jannayak Janata Party of Dushyant Chautala.
Rahul never congratulated the leaders responsible for making the party relevant again in Haryana and Maharashtra, again drawing criticism from party snipers.