The decision was taken after day long deliberations and speculations, as the Congress Working Committee (CWC) met to choose a new party president.
The meeting was interrupted late in the evening over news from Jammu and Kashmir.
Former president Rahul Gandhi said, “I was called just now by the working committee because between the work they were doing to choose the next Congress president, there were reports of what was happening in J&K. There were reports of violence and people dying. We had to cut short our meeting.”
Soon after, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad confirmed Sonia Gandhi’s apppointment as interim president of the Congress at a press meet.
Sources said a number of leaders, including state chiefs and MPs, backed Rahul Gandhi to continue on the post despite his refusal to reconsider his resignation.
At the crucial meeting, the report of five regional groups formed for wider consultation on the issue was supposed to be placed, with sources saying there was a consensus on Rahul Gandhi continuing as party chief.
However, Rahul Gandhi had in the morning asserted that he would not take back his resignation, after CWC members unanimously urged him to reconsider.
As the CWC members met at around 9 pm at the AICC headquarters in New Delhi, Rahul Gandhi arrived late.
During the wider consultation process involving state PCC chiefs, Congress legislature party leaders, AICC secretaries and party MPs, only a few suggested other names while a majority of them said the party will face desertions if Rahul Gandhi does not remain the leader. Some even told Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to prevail upon Rahul to reconsider his May 25 resignation, the sources said.
The party’s top decision-making body was supposed to discuss reports of five groups, formed earlier in the day, to scrutinise names of potential successor to Rahul Gandhi.
United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi recused themselves from the consultation process, saying they cannot be part of it as they have been Congress presidents in the past and would not like the opinion of the party leaders to be influenced in any manner.
“There is process of consultation and naturally Rahulji and myself, we cannot be part of that consultation,” Sonia Gandhi told reporters. Asked how their names were in the sub-groups for consultations, she said, “That’s obviously a mistake, because we cannot be in that.”