The Congress’ Delhi unit passed a “unanimous” resolution on Sunday evening asking Rahul Gandhi to return as party chief “with immediate effect”.
The resolution, expected to trigger a series of similar declarations by other state units, comes days after the party said organisational polls would be held in June – after Assembly elections in several key states, including Bengal and Tamil Nadu. That announcement came after a tempestuous meeting of the CWC (Congress Working Committee) – the party’s highest decision-making body.
At the meeting, senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and P Chidambaram – among those who have raised uncomfortable questions over party leadership and management – asked for immediate organisational polls.
Against them were so-called Gandhi loyalists – Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Punjab counterpart Amarinder Singh, and AK Antony, Tariq Anwar and Oommen Chandy – who said it should be held after state polls.
The argument reportedly prompted Mr Gandhi to declare: “Once and for all, finish it and move on.”
Mr Gandhi resigned as party chief in 2019 after the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha election, and has been adamant about not returning since, despite several calls to do so.
His mother, Sonia Gandhi, who has been interim chief since he resigned and was President before he took over, has made it clear she is not interested in retaining the post longer than necessary.
However, while the Gandhis say they do not want the top job, they continue to be the centre of power in the party. No big decision is taken without their sign-off.
Over the past months senior Congress leaders have called for introspection over continued poor performances in elections, and for “full time” and visible” leadership to take the party forward. In August last year, 23 top leaders wrote to Mrs Gandhi, triggering a row that split the party down the middle.
Veteran leaders like Mr Azad, Mr Sharma, Mr Wasnik, and Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor were among the signatories and called for empowerment of state units and organisational elections at every level.
In response sources close to Mrs Gandhi, 73, said she talked of quitting, citing her poor health.
Sonia Gandhi met some of the letter-writers last month and discussed the issues raised by them. Another meeting – the party called it the first in a series of discussions – was held last week.
“A positive discussion was started by Sonia Gandhi… talked about deciding top leadership,” party leader Pawan Bansal said.