New Delhi: The debate over leadership in Congress that kicked up after party Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s sudden leave refuses to die down with party leaders speaking in different voices. Some maintain that it’s time that Rahul takes over the supreme position in the party and put an end to the dual power centres in Congress, while others feel party President Sonia Gandhi should not retire now.
Former Union minister Ashwani Kumar termed as “totally uncalled for and utterly distasteful” suggestions that the Congress president should retire saying the party needs “collective leadership at this critical juncture”.
Another former Union minister Jairam Ramesh, however, said that Rahul Gandhi will be decisive when he takes over and provide leadership like Sonia Gandhi.
“It is up to him and the Congress President, Congress Working Committee and the AICC to decide but my view is that when he takes over, he will be decisive, I think he will provide leadership as has Mrs Gandhi,” said Ramesh, a Rajya Sabha MP who is stated to be close to the Congress Vice President.
“I think the way I see it what he is working out is a detailed blueprint for the revival, for the rejuvenation of the Congress which highlight the electoral debacle in 2014,” Ramesh said about Rahul’s sudden sabbatical.
Maintaining that there cannot be two decision-making bodies within one party, nine-time Lok Sabha member Kamal Nath on Wednesday said that Rahul must be given full responsibility of the party.
Digvijaya Singh had said that Rahul was not being allowed to function independently and “some powerful people in Delhi” were trying to stall his reform measures.
Kumar, however, did not agree with Singh’s view and said “Rahul Gandhi is the Vice President of the party. While senior leaders are entitled to express their views, the idea is not to prevent the decisions by Rahul Gandhi. I do not think this suggestion is correct.
“Rahul as Vice President has the authority to overrule these suggestions with which he does not agree. Nobody can stall his ideas.”
Kumar said Sonia has provided “exemplary leadership” to the party but admitted there could be differences in perspectives between her and Rahul on certain issues.
“Sonia Gandhi has provided exemplary leadership to the Congress party and at this critical juncture when we need to collectively rebuild the party, her stewardship is critically important along with the energetic role of Rahul Gandhi, who in the natural course of things will eventually take over as party president,” he said.
He termed the suggestion that Sonia Gandhi should retire as “totally uncalled for and utterly distasteful”.
Asked whether he has also seen differences between Sonia and Rahul in dealing with issues in the party, as was being projected by some party leaders, Kumar replied in negative.
“I have never found important decisions being stalled on account of perceived division of authority between Congress President and Vice President, although on certain issues, there could be differences in perspectives,” he said.
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot, a key member of Team Rahul, said that as of now Sonia Gandhi was the party president and Rahul the vice-president. “You will get to know if there is any change,” he said.
Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily had on Thursday said that Sonia should not “retire” at this time and “should be as active as before”.
The comments by senior leaders have come at a time when there is intense speculation that Rahul may be elevated. While there is no formal word, the talk in party circles is that Rahul could take over the leadership at an AICC session likely to be held at Bengaluru.
While the party has spoken in different voices about Rahul’s possible elevation, the timing of his leave has come under question.
Ramesh said, “I personally would like to have seen him present when Parliament session was on.”
Meanwhile the membership drive of the party, which was supposed to come to an end on Saturday after a two-month extension, has been extended further for a few weeks.
The announcement was made by AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi who said that Congress Working Committee which met on January 13 considered some proposals of the Central Election Authority of the party which were aimed at improving the quality of membership enrolment and organisational elections. These issues are to be discussed and decided at the forthcoming AICC meeting.
“In view of the above, it has become imperative to extend the deadline (February 28) given for closure of membership by few weeks. The CEA has accordingly extended the date of enrolment,” Dwivedi said.
He said that the organisational elections will take place in a phased manner from July to September.