Congress looks beyond Rahul Gandhi Interim party chief likely next week


New Delhi, Jul 4
The Congress has begun the process for electing its interim chief as all attempts to mollify Rahul Gandhi have failed. Senior party leader and Gandhi family loyalist Ahmed Patel spoke with party veterans Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kamal Nath, Ashok Gehlot and Sushil Kumar Shinde on Thursday over phone.
The leaders are understood to have discussed the way forward. The consultations were centred on holding a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). The meeting is likely to be convened as soon as next week.
Sources say that the CWC will accept Rahul Gandhi's resignation to begin with, and appoint an interim chief of the Congress party. Once this arrangement is done, a schedule will be finalised for the election of the next Congress president.
According to senior party leaders, the CWC will pass a resolution heaping praise on Rahul Gandhi for his leadership as the Congress president.
Meanwhile, it has been learnt that Sonia Gandhi has refused to suggest a name for the next or provisional Congress president. Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had refused to name any leader as his successor saying it is the duty of the party's central committee to decide.
Several Congress leaders approached Rahul Gandhi seeking to know his choice for an alternative as the Congress president. But Rahul Gandhi refused to oblige insisting that the Congress leaders should find a non-Gandhi person to lead the party.
Having been turned away by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leaders called on Sonia Gandhi with the same request. But Sonia Gandhi, too, turned down their request for naming the next Congress president.
When pushed by the Congress leaders, Sonia Gandhi is understood to have told them that if a Gandhi suggested any name, it would be construed as if the family wants to install its own puppet as the Congress president.
Sonia Gandhi also told the Congress leaders that the Gandhis will extend full cooperation in electing the next party president but without projecting anyone as their candidate. This has put senior Congress leaders dealing with the leadership crisis in a catch-22 situation. They have not been able to arrive at a consensus over any candidate.
Making a Dalit leader as the next or provisional Congress president is being discussed in the party as an escape route. Names of Mukul Wasnik, Mallikarjun Kharge, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Kumari Selja are doing rounds in this connection.
At the same time, name of Ashok Gehlot, who belongs to OBC community, is also being discussed as a possible successor of Rahul Gandhi. Gehlot, the Rajasthan Chief Minister, had met Rahul Gandhi only a couple of days ago along with Captain Amarinder Singh, Kamal Nath, Bhupesh Baghel and V Narayanasamy - his counterparts from Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry respectively.
On the sidelines, Manmohan Singh and Motilal Vora are also said to be in contention for the Congress president's role. Their suitability for the job is being questioned, however, on the ground of their age. Manmohan Singh is 86 while Motilal Vora is 93.