So Close Yet So Far: When Rahul ‘Almost’ Became Congress President

There’s noise again about Rahul Gandhi taking over the reigns of the Congress party from his mother, Sonia Gandhi.

Updated
India
2 min read
There’s noise again about Rahul Gandhi taking over the reigns of the Congress party from his mother, Sonia Gandhi.
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Rahul Gandhi may take over as the Congress president shortly after Diwali, Rajasthan leader Sachin Pilot said on 1 October, sounding the alarm once again.

This is clearly not the first time, and perhaps not the last that there are reports of Gandhi becoming the party president.

Earlier in September, when Gandhi visited University of California, Berkeley, he said that he was “absolutely ready” to take up an executive responsibility if the Congress asked him to do so.

Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily has endorsed the Gandhi scion – calling Rahul’s taking over a “game-changer” for the party.

On Friday, Moily said Rahul would like to emerge as the party president through an internal election process.

He [Rahul] should immediately take over as Congress president. That’s good for the party, good for the country.
M Veerappa Moily

Moily further hinted that Rahul – who is currently the Congress Vice President – may take over the reigns of the party from his mother, and assume the charge of President as early as next month.

But this is not the first time that the media and the party members have talked about Rahul becoming the party president.

On Whose Birthday Will It Be Anyway?

In 2016, reports surfaced on at least three different occasions that the Gandhi scion would take over the party presidency.

Initially, it was said to happen by the end of the year but it was also debated as happening between August and November, on the birthdays of Rajiv Gandhi (20 August), Jawaharlal Nehru (14 November) or Indira Gandhi (19 November).

The day before demonetisation struck, the party’s apex decision-making body nominated Rahul for the top post, and all that was needed was Sonia’s approval. However, possibly demonetisation and the upcoming elections delayed plans.

Soul-Searching Times

Even in February 2015, well placed sources within the party had said that Rahul was to take over as president in April that year, as the rumour mill was swirling after he took a “leave of absence” from an important parliamentary session.

When Rahul did not attend the budget session that year, the then party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had said:

He is abroad. He has taken time off for introspection and soul-searching before starting a new journey in his life.

Tailor Made, Big-Boy Pants?

In 2013, the party had appointed Rahul as its Vice President, an elevation from being the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee.

But, was that post created just for Rahul? The last time the party had a vice president was in the 1980s, when party veteran Arjun Singh served under Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi.

AK Antony, the then-defence minister and party leader while announcing the decision, had said:

It has been a long-pending demand of the Congress members that greater responsibilities be given to Rahul Gandhi.
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