Rahul elected Congress president, to assume office on December 16


Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi (PTI): Rahul Gandhi was elected the Congress president on Monday, marking a generational shift in the grand old party and becoming the sixth member of the influential Nehru-Gandhi clan to occupy the post.

He will take over the reins of the party from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who steered it through success and failure for 19 years, the longest in the party’s 132-year history, on December 16.

Mullappally Ramachandran, the chief of the Congress’s central election authority, announced Gandhi’s election on Monday, the last day for withdrawal of nominations, when the 47-year-old leader, who appeared to have lately undergone a transformation– from the tentative to the assertive–was busy canvassing for the party in Gujarat.

“Since the withdrawal of date / time is over and as there is only one candidate (Rahul), as per Article XVII (d) of the Constitution of Indian National Congress, I hereby declare Shri Rahul Gandhi elected as president of the Indian National Congress,” Ramachandran told a press conference.

“A heartfelt thank you to everyone for the tremendous support and good wishes you have showered on me. It is an honour for me to work for the ideals of the Congress party and through it for our great country,” Gandhi tweeted after his election was announced.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Rahul Gandhi on his election even as the two are locked in a bitter political battle in Gujarat where assembly elections are on.

“I congratulate Rahul Ji on his election as Congress president. My best wishes for a fruitful tenure,” Modi tweeted from his personal twitter handle @narendramodi.

As expected, the Congress continued to rely heavily on a person with the Gandhi surname, to revive its dwindling fortunes despite losing state after state, with the exception of Punjab, since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Altogether 89 sets of nominations were filed for the election to the top post and all were on behalf of Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi’s elevation comes close to five years after he was appointed party vice president in January 2013 and seemingly endless speculation about his impending promotion over the past couple of years after Sonia Gandhi started keeping indifferent health.

Rahul Gandhi, who appeared reluctant to take on the mantle of Congress president, gave a clear indication about his readiness to accept the responsibility of running the party during an interaction at the University of California, Berkeley, in September this year.

“I am absolutely ready to do that,” he had told the gathering when asked if he wanted to take up an executive role in the Congress Party.

While pageantry would herald the dawn of a new era in the Congress, which has ruled the country for over half a century since independence, on December 16, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family will face the daunting task of restoring lost glory to the party whose fortunes have seen a downswing in the recent past.

Today, the party, which once controlled almost the entire country, has its governments in just five states and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

A win in the Gujarat Assembly election, where a sure-footed Rahul Gandhi has led a spirited campaign against the BJP, would come as a massive boost for him. Pollsters have already predicted a dead heat between the two parties in the state, which the BJP has ruled without a break for over 19 years now.

Striking a balance between the old guard and the young leaders would be key to running the organisation which has many seasoned politicians whose wisdom he could use as he steers the party through the choppy waters of current Indian politics.

Gandhi had said in the past that he would draw upon a blend of experience of the old and the energy of the young to helm the organisation.

Before Rahul Gandhi, other members of the family who occupied the post of Congress president were Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Sonia Gandhi.

The family was at the helm of the Congress’s affairs after independence for at least 38 years: Jawaharlal Nehru for more than three years, his daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi for eight years each, and Sonia Gandhi for a record 19 years.