Senior Congress leader Ambika Soni on Monday insisted that the party needs Sonia Gandhi as President even as she made a strong defence of Rahul Gandhi, who is on sabbatical for more than a month, saying there is “no question of having one at the cost of another”.

A day after former MP Sandip Dikshit said that Sonia is the “leader” for “99 per cent of” partymen and she is needed at the helm at this time more than ever in the past, Soni said, “there is no question of having one at the cost of the other. Congress President is our President. We need her. And you see in few days she has been moving from state, meeting farmers, getting party energised. The whole party is upbeat.”

She also brushed aside questions that Dikshit’s remarks indicated that Rahul is not wanted by some in the party amid talk of his possible elevation as Congress President.

“He (Dikshit) does not mean that. I did not get that impression from his interaction with the media. You ask him how, why and what he meant. He will say exactly the same thing. We need both the Congress President and the Vice President.

“We know that Sonia Gandhi, through her own leadership qualities brought the Congress back to power. The UPA was constituted because she went interacting with leaders of secular parties and we had UPA 1 and UPA II. Today we are in Opposition again. We are lucky to have Sonia Gandhi as the President,” Soni, AICC general decretary, said.

To a specific question as to whether she thinks that it is right time for the elevation of Rahul as President, Soni said, “That is a decision that the Congress Party and the Congress workers will take up at the appropriate time
Another party general secretary Digivijay Singh said that it is for Sonia Gandhi to decide on the issue of next Congress President.

“It is for to decide the the timing of anointment of Rahul Gandhi. That is for her to decide. She is the leader and she shall remain the leader,” Singh said.

There has been intense speculation in party circles that Rahul could be elevated as Congress President at AICC session expected to take place by May.

Gurudas Kamath, also party general secretary, said the decision for bringing about a change or not at the top should be left entirely to the Congress President without embarrassing her because Congressmen have accepted the leadership of both.

“Sonia ji is required all the time. There is no doubt about that. And she is not going anywhere. She is going to remain here itself. We are convinced about it,” Kamath said when asked whether he agrees with Dikshit’s contention that Sonia is needed at the helm of party affairs all the more this time.

There had earlier been speculation that even if Rahul is made party President, Sonia will continue to guide the party as Chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party.

The remarks are significant in view of a number of old guards in the party in past expressing disapproval with the functioning style of Rahul and saying in private that their comfort level is much better with Sonia.

Soni said that Sonia has given an “agitational direction” in the recent days on farmers’issues to the party and party workers are upbeat not only in Delhi but wherever she has been.

“There is a sense of upbeat in Congress rank and file. Sandeep did not mean to say at all that we need only one leader. We need President Sonia Gandhi because our experience is that she brought us back in power in 2004 and will again give us leadership.

“We also need Vice President. He has given a new direction to the young generation. Today you see Youth Congress is holding agitations, reminding me of its old days,” Soni said.

Asked about Rahul’s absence, the Congress leader said, “every individual needs to follow his own course of action. He has his own mindset, his own policy, own thinking.”
Pressed further on the issue, she said that it was a controversy created by the media.

“Let us put the whole controversy in its proper place. It’s the media, which wants a controversy to take place. You are wanting to see a controversy where there is none.

“We have said that Rahul Gandhi has gone out for a while. He needs that space. He wants to introspect and we as a party understand. He will be back soon and we will have both the leaders the President and the Vice President.”

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