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Rahul adamant on stepping down, party leaders gasp to placate him


IANS New Delhi
With Congress President Rahul Gandhi remaining steadfast on quitting his post in wake of the poll drubbing, hectic activities were witnessed on Tuesday to tide over the crisis amid questions over whether there will be a structural overhaul, starting from the top.
Not only was the party in crisis at the central level, but its state units in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka also looked in disarray and vulnerable to a collapse.
Led by his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a host of party leaders met the angry and sulking Congress President at his residence through the day and Gandhi is believed to have conveyed to them that he could at best lead the party in Parliament as the chief of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP).
He is believed to have conveyed to the party leaders that he was "not running away" but wanted that someone else should lead the Congress, not necessarily from his family.
Gandhi cited past examples when the party was led by leaders from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family, according to a senior leader.
As he stayed firm on quitting, suggestions poured in noisily from other members that he should not do so but appoint a Working President or a Vice President to look after day-to-day functioning.
Congress leaders said that if he had agreed to withdraw his resignation, there was scope for further discussion but because of his response there is no further progress on the matter.
Besides Priyanka Gandhi, who stayed with her brother for most of the day, those who met Gandhi included party General Secretary K.C. Venugopal, Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
With Gandhi remaining adamant, a presidium system to govern the party is being considered, wherein a group of senior leaders will run the show.
Party sources said Gandhi is unlikely to be the party leader in the Lok Sabha and the post may go to someone else as happened in the previous House. But he can be the CPP leader.
Two senior Congress General Secretaries, whom IANS spoke to, said Gandhi was not willing to take the position of leader of the Congress in the lower House, which will not have the status of Leader of Opposition, a Cabinet rank, because of the lack of adequate numbers.
They said that he was more eager to continue the ideological battle against the BJP and its mentor RSS in and outside Parliament.
The leaders said Gandhi had taken the party's poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections personally and offered to step down as the Congress President and called for someone outside the Gandhi family to head the party.
He has told senior leaders that he did not want to get into the appointments of state unit and district chiefs.
The party is in deep crisis as resignations by senior leaders are piling up across the states ever since its poor show in the Lok Sabha polls in which it bagged only 52 seats in the 543-member House. The number is just 8 more than it got in the last Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi, in the wake of the party's poll debacle, had offered to resign during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held on Saturday last but it was unanimously rejected.
The CWC, which is the party's top decision-making body, authorised him to make structural changes in the party.
However, he has remained adamant on quitting the post and efforts are being made to convince him to change his position.
Gandhi is particularly unhappy with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as he feels he did not do enough for the party to be able to score well in the Lok Sabha elections in the state where the Congress performed well in the Assembly polls and formed the government only six months back.
He refused to meet Gehlot on Monday and asked him to meet Venugopal instead.
On Tuesday, Gehlot went to Gandhi's residence and later met party Treasurer Ahmed Patel at the Congress office here before returning to Jaipur.
The Congress is expected to call another CWC meeting within the next four days.
Gandhi had blamed Gehlot and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath for devoting more time in the constituencies of their sons instead of doing more for the party in the elections.
Senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari, who met Priyanka Gandhi at Gandhi's residence on Tuesday, said this was not the time for Gandhi to resign but seek accountability from those who were given responsibility.
"All those who are responsible should give their resignation and Rahul Gandhi should remain as the party president," Tiwari said while speaking to the media after the meeting.
"Congress has faced such a debacle many a time and this party has the strength to come back and the party should be led by Rahul Gandhi and the Gandhi family," he added.

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First Published: May 28 2019 | 9:50 PM IST

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