The Indian National Congress, as the official name of the party goes, was formed in 1885 and this is also the time, as far as the association of the Gandhi family is with the party. From 1951, until his death in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, led the party. Following Nehru’s death in 1964 Lal Bahadur Shastri was handed over the post as the President of the party, but just two years later in 1966, Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi took over the command and headed the party.
The party has seen many ups and downs regarding the leadership, but nonetheless, it somehow managed to keep the high command position with the Gandhian scion. Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi, succeeded his mother as the nominal head in 1982 and became the party president in 1984, upon her assassination. However, he too was assassinated in 1991, and for the first time, PV Narasimha Rao a non-Gandhian took the position as the party head in 1991.
But soon, Sonia Gandhi the incumbent President of Congress and the Italian widow of Rajiv Gandhi was asked to take the baton in her hand. She initially declined overtures to play an active role in party affairs, but at that time she agreed to campaign. Since then, Sonai Gandhi has been the President of Congress and so has the position in the Gandhian scion.
Lately, in wake of her bad health and the need of a young leader to represent the party, it was decided that Rahul Gandhi, the incumbent Vice President of Congress and son of Sonai Gandhi take over as the head of the party. The senior party members along with all the other leaders and workers of the party also supported the suggestion of elevating Rahul Gandhi as the party President.
Rahul during his US trip while delivering a speech at the Cambridge University had the first time revealed that he was ready to take up as the President of Congress. Though he had also mentioned that it was totally the decision of the party members. If given a look at the engagements of Rahul Gandhi in the political scenario as a Congressman, he was not taken very seriously and was always mocked about. But recently his enthusiastic campaigning in poll-bound Gujarat, his image and the perception of the people has surely changed towards him.
Many were of the opinion that this is the new ‘avatar’ of Rahul and he was now ready to take up leadership of the Congress party. Some political parties including the Bhartiya Janta Party, of course, mocked the elevation of Rahul Gandhi a the party president and termed the party to play dynasty politics to keep the post in the family and not passing it to any more deserving candidate.
however, the Congressmen supported the elevation of Rahul and it was finalized that he would be taking over as the President of Congress ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections due in two phases on 9 and 14 Dec.
Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers for the Presidentship today and is likely to be the lone candidate in the fray. The election if necessary will be held on 16 Dec and if elected, Gandhi will succeed his mother Sonia Gandhi, who has been the party president for 19 years in a row. During the filing of the nomination papers on Monday, he was accompanied by a host of senior party leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Senior party leaders, including Kamal Nath, Sheila Dikshit, Motilal Vora and Tarun Gogoi, filed the first set of nominations (as proposers) for Rahul Gandhi.
However, this decision of promoting Rahul was criticised by many, including a few Congress leaders. The secretary of the Congress party’s Maharashtra unit Shehzad Poonawalla labeled the Congress’ presidential elections as ‘rigged’. He demanded that Rahul first resign as the Vice President of the party and then file nomination for the elections. He also added that he would also contest the polls if the election were held in a genuine manner. He alleged that the election was a selection rather than a democratic process.
The disgruntled Congress leader in his statement to the press said that “I have a strong objection to you calling it a nomination and an election process. This is a selection process, it is a fixed match, it is the coronation of a king.” He further added that Rahul Gandhi’s dynastic courtiers, should rather than carrying his nomination papers, they should carry a crown, which should be presented to him at the gate. He also raised three questions to Rahul Gandhi, who believes in democracy. He asked that “Shehzad Poonawalla, is not your worker and you were so scared that I would file a nomination, but Manish Tiwari is your leader, even he stated that it is a proprietorship, it is rigged election, giving a oneway ticket out of the party.”
Poonawalla also revealed that Manishshankar Iyer also said that it is only the mother and son who can be the president and these are the questions about the so-called election process, the fixed delegates and how they are being selected and not elected as per the constitution. He questioned that will Rahul Gandhi agree for general elections ever? Further attacking the to be president of Congress, he asked that “Is he so scared of the Shehzad’s of the country that they might challenge the ‘Shehazada’ of this party?”
He also raised eyebrows saying that “when you import and export leaders, from and to BJP, that time you are not a BJP agent, there are sympathizers of RSS in the Congress and I would open my mouth, they will be exposed.” Further revealing about the Congress party he said that “Nehru Ji took Shyama Prasad Mukerjee into his cabinet, they are BJP agent. Referring to the speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said that “the only thing that was seen in Modi Ji’s speech yesterday is that the person whom I criticised yesterday morning for his policies, took my name on a public platform and the SHehzada that I served for 10 years in the party has insulted me because maybe insulting is in his DNA. Just like the insulted Sardar Patel, they insulted me also.”
He mocked that now one thing is very clear that “who is democratic and who has the DNA of the emergency.” He further added that “My sources tell me that there might be a ‘dummy’ candidate in the elections, so it appears to be a democratic process. But the party can no longer fool the people.”
Rahul Gandhi, before filing the nomination papers, visited the residence of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former president Pranab Mukherjee. Despite heavy criticism for the election process, many Congress leaders supported and Congratulated Rahul for the nomination.
Former Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram congratulated Rahul Gandhi and wished him luck.
As Mr Rahul Gandhi files his nomination, I wish him the very best as Congress President. #IndiaWithRahulGandhi
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) December 4, 2017
Former Chief Minister of Rajasthan and currently Congress in charge in poll-bound Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot also wished him luck and extended his best wishes saying that Rahul Gandhi’s simplicity and genuineness has an appeal n acts as a unifying force.
I extend my best wishes to Sh #RahulGandhi ji as he files nomination for party President's post.
Rahul ji has been working very hard since becoming the VP. His simplicity n genuineness has an appeal n acts as a unifying force.#IndiaWithRahulGandhi pic.twitter.com/DxWmW5TkgT
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) December 4, 2017
Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia also tweeted that the party will make tremendous progress under the unifying and progressive leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Highlighting the changed image of Rahul Gandhi in past six to eight months, he said that “He (Rahul Gandhi) has been leading us from the front on various issues like farmers issue, GST, demonetization…he believes in staying with issues over the long run. He is a marathon runner. You have seen that in the last six to eight months.” He also sarcastically attacked the criticism of the elevation process saying that “We are following the election commission’s diktat…probably the only party in the country to have put together a formal election process. They (leaders) are more than happy to throw their hat in the ring, why don’t they do so?”
Scindia also did not miss the chance to point out the election process of the BJP, He said that “it (Rahul’s election) is causing them (BJP) great irritation as the Congress party is on the right path…When was the last time a BJP president was elected through an election process? In last 60-70 years, the answer is pretty clear. There is only one electoral authority in the BJP and we all know who it is.”
Have no doubt that we will make tremendous strides under your unifying & progressive leadership @OfficeOfRG! Wish you the very best! Look forward to undertaking this journey of building an India of energy, opportunity & unity with you. #IndiawithRahulGandhi
— Jyotiraditya Scindia (@JM_Scindia) December 4, 2017
The Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah also congratulated Rahul and wishing him success, expressed confidence that the party will renew itself with greater vigour and scale new heights under his leadership. He also took a jibe at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for criticising the Congress’ party elections, based on Poonawalla’s allegations. Referring to the statements made by Poonawala, the Karnataka Chief Minister said that “If anyone wants to participate in elections he or she is free to do so, its going on in a democratic manner. PM has no business to comment on Congress’s internal matter.”
Congratulations, Shri Rahul Gandhi @OfficeOfRG on filing nomination papers for election of post of President of @INCIndia.
I am confident that the party will renew itself with greater vigour& scale new heights under your able leadership. I wish you success!#IndiaWithRahulGandhi pic.twitter.com/MtYoWPEkUH
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) December 4, 2017
While, Congress spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala, termed it as golden day for the Congress, as Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers. He said that Congress party has a 130-year-old history of service, dedication and sacrifice and today as Rahul files his nomination papers, a new chapter has been added in the history of Congress. Attacking the Prime Minister for his comments on the elevation of Rahul Gandhi, Surjewala also questioned that “We would like to ask the honorable Narendra Modi, that why is the Prime Minister suffering from Rahul Gandhi phobia? Why is he so much stressed?” He also asked that “Modi Ji you have become blind to the feeling of revenge and low will you fall down?” He also added that “Modi’s love for Shehzad (Poonawalla), Shahzada (BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jai Shah) and Shourya (National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s son) is well known to the world. But will Modiji tell when he will answer the questions of his own senior party leaders like Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, and Shatrughan Sinha?”
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Rahul Gandhi has been the darling of the Congress and this is yet another step, in his quest for serving the people through the Congress party. He also spoke about the incumbent President of Congres saying that “Sonia Gandhi has served the Congress party, for the last 19 years and this is yet another step forward in that direction, where Rahul Gandhi will carry on the traditions of the Congress party.
Party senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar taking a dig at the BJP for likening the Congress presidential elections to Mughal rule, said that the election was a completely democratic process. “Don’t compare both, during Mughal rule it was understood that after Jehangir, Shahjahan will be the leader but here anyone is free to contest against Rahul Gandhi, its a totally democratic process,” he said. He pointed out that anyone is free to file nomination against Rahul Gandhi and it has been done like this earlier also when during the process of election of Sonia Gandhi as the Party President Jitendra Prasad had filed nominations against her. Similarly even today, anyone is welcome to contest against Rahul, he added. He also slammed the Prime Minister for dubbing the election ‘Aurangzeb Raj’ and said that he is not a Congressmen to pass comments on the elections for the President’s post of the party. He also termed Modi to be a dictator saying that “tanashahi ka naam hai Narendra Modi, (another name of dictatorship is Narendra Modi).”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a rally in Gujarat’s Dharampur, attacking the Congress for following dynastic rule said that “after Shahjahan, it was understood Aurangzeb will be the leader’. So Congress accepts it’s a family party? We don’t want this Aurangzeb rule.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah also welcomed Rahul Gandhi’s coronation hoping that the young leadership will take India to new heights. “This is a good sign that the young brigade is stepping forward. I hope he takes India to great heights where everyone lives in harmony. The post of PM lies in distant future, for now, he must work hard to unite India and bring everyone together.”
Meanwhile, the Congressmen are celebrating this day as a golden day and another chapter being added in the history of Congress, the BJP leaders have not missed the chance to speak against the party and the election process.
Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi attacking the Congress and taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi for his unopposed elevation a the President of Congress, said that such an election was only possible in a feudal setup. “I congratulate Rahul Gandhi for his promotion without performance, can only be possible in a feudal setup,” he said. He confidently told that looking at the critical situation that the Congress is in today, serving on the ventilator, Rahul Gandhi standing on the elevator is not going to do anything extraordinary to save the party. He further added that “Rahul has done many works and exploitations and ha failed in many and still if the party is promoting him as the President I would congratulate him for his promotion without performance.”
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan called Rahul Gandhi the owner of Congress and alleged that there was no democracy in Congress and that they were being forced to make an arrangement due to the EC regulations. “He (Rahul Gandhi) is the owner of the party. His elevation & nomination are their personal matter. They are forced to make this arrangement (election) because of the regulations of EC. However, no democracy is left inside such a big party,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and the Hindutva face of the BJP, Yogi Adityanath in his statement to the press regarding the elevation of Rahul Gandhi, said that the Congress party was a burden on the nation and wished that the party be wiped out completely after the elevation. “Congress has become a burden on this nation, now would be good if after Rahul ji’s elevation once and for all this burden is removed,” he said. He commented that Congress is not a democratic party and in a dynastic party like this, it is clear that if anyone is to be the President after Sonia Gandhi, it is Rahul Gandhi.
The elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the Congress party President comes at a time when Gujarat assembly elections are only a few days away. These elections are being considered as one of the biggest polls after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Gujarat polls have become a prestige point for both BJP and Congress. While BJP is striving hard to keep the rule that has been with the party for 22 years. It has become a survival fight for the Congress, who is desperately trying to end its political exile in the state and make its presence be felt in the political equations in India.
The Gujarat elections are also important for Rahul Gandhi as this is the chance for him to prove himself and win the confidence of the Congressmen and even the India, to be the right candidate for the position of President of Congress. If there is any other nomination for the post, which is quite unlikely, the party’s returning officer will announce a date for the election.