Congress party in turmoil after Rahul Gandhi’s resignation

Wednesday, 3 July 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

New Delhi (Reuters): Rahul Gandhi has spurned appeals to reconsider his resignation as leader of the Congress party after losing a second general election to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an aide said on Tuesday, as the party faces its worst crisis in a decade.

Stuck between a leader determined to quit and party officials unwilling to accept his leaving, Congress is effectively leaderless more than a month after its election drubbing and facing key state polls later this year. Chief Ministers from five Congress-ruled states went to New Delhi on Monday where they spent two hours trying to convince Gandhi to reverse his May 25 decision to resign.

“We told him our point of view, openly, in a long conversation,” Ashok Gehlot, a senior Congress leader and Chief Minister of Rajasthan, told reporters.

“We hope he will consider our view and take the right decision,” he said. A close aide to Gandhi, speaking to Reuters after the meeting, said the 49-year-old was firm about stepping aside as Congress president, a position he held since succeeding his mother, Sonia Gandhi, in late 2017. “He will never change his mind,” the aide said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“He feels that the way forward is not him continuing as Congress president ... and let somebody outside the Gandhi family be Congress president,” the aide said, adding the party cannot “just depend on one person, one family”.

Gandhi will remain in politics to help rebuild Congress from the ground up, the aide said, rather than stay on as leader due to his family’s political lineage.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has dominated the party, and through it Indian politics for decades, producing three prime ministers, but Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have accused Congress of promoting “dynasty” politics.

The Modi-led BJP has trounced Congress in two successive general elections, winning 303 out of 542 parliament seats in 2019, and wresting away Gandhi’s own parliament seat in a family borough in northern India.