A sulking Rahul Gandhi avoided meeting top Congress leaders who reached his residence Tuesday and instead fielded his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to hold talks with them.
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Not relenting on his decision to step down as Congress president following the party’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul has, however, indicated that he will continue on the post till such time a suitable replacement is found.
Sources in the party said he remains firm on his stand that a non-Gandhi should take over as Congress president. This could take time and till then, party insiders said, Rahul is free to carry out restructuring of the party, authorised by the Congress Working Committee.
While sources close to Rahul said he has given a month’s time to find a replacement, party leaders said it could go beyond a month. Some senior leaders believe they have managed to secure some breathing time. A meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party is likely to take place in the first week of June and party leaders feel there will be clarity then on the role he wants to play.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit, a staunch loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, said: “It is difficult for us to come to any conclusion now. We are scared and extremely upset that this is happening. The final decision has to be taken only by him. All senior leaders in the party are also meeting individually to find ways to convince the party president.”
With the crisis in the Congress showing no signs of ending, Opposition leaders Lalu Prasad Yadav and M K Stalin have urged Rahul not to step down. His mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka met him and held discussions to find ways to defuse the crisis.
The DMK said Stalin spoke to Rahul over phone and “appealed to him to give up the idea of resigning as party president”. According to the DMK, Stalin told Rahul that he has won the hearts of the people though his party lost the general election.
Lalu, on the other hand, has made a public appeal. “Rahul’s offer to resign suicidal. Opposition parties had the common goal to dislodge BJP but failed to build a national narrative. The result in a particular election can never alter the reality in as diverse and plural a country as India,” said a post on Lalu’s official Twitter handle.
Sources close to Rahul said he did not meet Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, his deputy Sachin Pilot and AICC general secretary in-charge of organisation K C Venugopal who reached 12, Tughlaq Lane Tuesday. The sources said it was Priyanka who discussed organisational matters with them.
With the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka staring at a crisis because of dissidence in the Congress, Venugopal left for Bengaluru Tuesday night. Sources said Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala also met Rahul.