Amid growing voices calling for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to lead the Congress following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation, veteran leader Karan Singh has said she will be a “unifying force” and will enthuse cadres if she takes on the mantle of party president.
He also said the Congress has “definitely been harmed” due to the indecision over the leadership issue and cautioned that remaining “headless” can be “seriously detrimental” to the party going forward.
In an interview to PTI, Singh agreed with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor’s views aired recently that a young leader will be more suitable as a replacement of Rahul Gandhi. “Baffled” over the “state of indecision” in the party, Singh on Saturday (August 3) said there are some very senior people in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and they should have come together earlier and done something about the situation arising out of Rahul Gandhi’s resignation. “One cannot leave the party headless. It is not fair to the Congress,” said Singh, a close associate of the Gandhi family who has been in the party for over 50 years.
Meanwhile, the party announced on Sunday (August 4) that the CWC will meet on August 10. The party had said earlier that the CWC will meet after the Parliament session ends next Wednesday (August 7). Asked about growing voices within the Congress calling for Priyanka Gandhi to take over as party chief, Karan Singh said it has to be her decision and if she agrees to take up the responsibility, he will welcome it. She has to take a decision and cant be bulldozed into taking up the party presidency, the 88-year-old leader said.
Asked if Priyanka Gandhi would be a suitable candidate for Congress president, Singh said, “Considering the situation and considering that she belongs to this family, she will probably be a unifying force.” How well Priyanka Gandhi does as Congress president, remains to be seen, he added. “She is a very intelligent young lady. She did well on the Sonbhadra issue when she went there (to meet victims of the massacre). She speaks well, she has got a good personality, carries herself well. So yes, if she agrees (to be Congress president), then why not,” Singh said.
The former Union minister said Priyanka Gandhi will certainly be able to enthuse the people in the party and will be an asset as Congress chief. Singh also asserted that the process for putting in place a new president should be strictly according to the party Constitution. His remarks assume significance as they come after Amarinder Singh and Tharoor both backed Priyanka to throw her hat into the ring when the call for Congress presidency polls is made.
On their remarks about a young leader being more suitable to take on the mantle of party president, he said there has been a generational change in the country with which one has to adjust and accept. “Therefore, prima facie if we can get a younger leader, it would be a good idea. I back their view if we get a suitable young leader. There must be a generational change. Rahul (as party chief) himself was a generational change,” the former governor of Jammu and Kashmir said. “Younger leaders across the board — for PCC presidents and so on — have to be brought in. Other things being equal, I would prefer a younger leader (for party presidents post),” he asserted.
Singh said the way forward for the party is to elect somebody as the interim leader. “If Priyanka Vadra is agreeable, elect her, if not then elect somebody else. Then get on with the job (of electing the party president) according to the Congress constitution. They cannot carry on like this. This will be seriously detrimental to the party,” he said.
Talking about the delay in the appointment of the Congress president, Singh said “definitely the Congress has been harmed” because a vast organisation like it cannot remain headless. “I have made statements that it has been very clearly laid down in the Congress constitution that if such an exigency arises then the senior-most general secretary should deal with the routine tasks of the Congress president and the working committee should name an interim president until the AICC elects a new president,” he said.
That process somehow doesnt seem to have happened, as a result of which over two months have passed now and there is no clarity about the Congress leadership, he said. “We have a lot of eminent people in the Congress…but they dont seem to be able to get their act together which I think is unfortunate,” the veteran Congress leader said.
Singh said Rahul Gandhis letter on July 3 made it very clear that he had already resigned.
“After all he is a very fine young man. He has got many years of politics ahead of him. If under the circumstances he made a decision that he wanted to resign, it is his decision, and we must honour that decision,” Singh said. “We wasted one month pleading with him to take back his resignation which I dont think was necessary because he is not a whimsical person that he will today make a decision and tomorrow take it back,” Singh said. He also said the party is losing people to the BJP with many using the leadership issue as an excuse to switch over.
Rahul Gandhi announced his resignation as Congress president on May 25 following the Lok Sabha polls debacle. However, the CWC has not accepted the resignation yet.
Meanwhile, Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora on Sunday (August 4) proposed the names of Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia for the post of party’s national president. Deora told PTI he agreed with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that the new Congress president should be young, capable and possess electoral, administrative and organisational experience, and a pan India appeal. “In my view, Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia have all these qualities and can provide strength to the organisation and vigour to the opposition space,” he said. He added that he was “unequivocally ruling myself out” adding that “I know my strengths and capabilities and I am willing to work with anyone in the best interest of our party”.