The Congress Monday said it expects party vice-president Rahul Gandhi “to become president of the Congress party in 2016”.
The announcement came amid reports that Prashant Kishor, the election strategist roped in by the party to revive its fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, has suggested that Rahul be the party’s chief ministerial face in the state, which goes to polls next year.
Former minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh reacted to the reports at an AICC briefing, saying, “I have no idea what Prashant Kishor has said or he is attributed to have said. All I can say is Rahul Gandhi is a Member of Parliament from Amethi. Rahul Gandhi is vice-president of the Congress party and we all expect Rahul Gandhi to become president of the Congress party in 2016… Rahul Gandhi obviously cannot be chief minister for 29 states… We all hope and expect…that he will be Congress president in 2016.”
Asked if Priyanka Vadra could be projected as the CM candidate in Uttar Pradesh — reports had claimed she is Kishor’s second choice — Ramesh said, “I have no knowledge.”
According to reports, Kishor has suggested the need for a credible face to mount an electoral challenge to the Samajwadi Party, BSP and BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress’s options in the state are limited. Its present line of leadership in Uttar Pradesh and its veteran faces have not clicked. However, asked to comment on the reports, Kishor replied via text message: “All bunkum.”
Ever since the Congress’s defeat in Lok Sabha elections, there have been demands that Rahul take over as party president from Sonia Gandhi, who has been at the helm of the party for 18 years. Many senior leaders have openly expressed their wish in this regard. From the AICC podium, too, spokespersons have in the past said that “partymen want Rahul to take over”, but with a caveat that the final decision would be taken by him and the top leadership.
The Congress Working Committee had in September last year extended Sonia’s tenure as party chief for a year. Meanwhile, the internal election process that was meant to begin in July-August last year, which many believed would lead to the transition, has been put on the backburner.
Sources close to Rahul had been saying his taking charge as party president is a “matter of months”, but there has been no forward movement, triggering restlessness among a section of the leadership.