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Congress Working President’s post mooted as buffer for Rahul Gandhi

The move comes amid efforts by top leadership to project a united face and to shield Gandhi’s leadership.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 27, 2019, 03.04 PM IST
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Rahul
The move comes amid efforts in the top leadership to project a united face and to shield Gandhi’s leadership.
As the Congress Working Committee has authorised party president Rahul Gandhi to restructure the leadership after the poll debacle, a proposal to create a post of Congress working president as a buffer for Gandhi has been floated by some senior leaders for his consideration, it is learnt. This is despite Gandhi’s ‘insistence’ during CWC meet on making way for a ‘non-Gandhi family member’ as party chief.

Gandhi, after CWC members told him their collective view that he continue as party chief, is also being persuaded to set up a committee to study the reasons for the defeat and to come out with a set of proposals for a productive action plan. The rider is that the committee’s proposals — unlike in the past — should be placed before a full CWC meeting for collective deliberation.

A party working president at 24, Akbar Road headquarters of Congress could, these leaders feel, besides assisting the party chief, spare Rahul a part of the day-today work so that he can focus on travelling across the states for organisational work as the party now requires a major organisational re-building after its pan-India collapse, barring Kerala and Punjab.

An acknowledged leader from outside Gandhi family as working president can also give the “right message”, given the party’s top leadership currently has the largest ever representation from the Gandhi family –– Rahul as president, Sonia Gandhi as CPP chief and Priyanka Gandhi as AICC general secretary.

While maintaining it is up to Rahul to take a final decision, they pointed out that Indira Gandhi had appointed senior leader Kamalapati Tripathi as working president after the Congress’ debacle in the south in 1983, in the runup to the next general elections.

Later, the then party chief Rajiv Gandhi made Arjun Singh Congress vice president amid the then PM’s worsening ties with Tripathi. Though the Jaipur AICC session appointed Rahul as vice president in 2013, it was more of setting the motion for the transition phase of the son taking over from the mother as party chief. Incidentally, Rahul has appointed working presidents in many PCCs as his way of “strengthening collective leadership”, they pointed out.

The move comes amid efforts in the top leadership to project a united face and to shield Gandhi’s leadership. Gandhi offering his resignation at the CWC meet and persisting with it coincided with increasing in-house murmurs after the debacle on his political and campaign approach.

Incidentally, Sonia had for days insisted on quitting when her leadership was questioned by Sharad Pawar and Co in 1999, making the entire CWC and party workers to repeatedly plead with her to carry on.

The CWC’s “unanimous and emotional” rejection of Rahul’s resignation offer and Priyanka Gandhi maintaining that no one individual should take the full blame for the defeat and exhorting her brother to carry on are seen as signals of the top party body and the family working in the same direction.

Moreover, they know that if Gandhi flopped, so did all others — except Kerala and Punjab leaders. While family loyalists insist only Gandhi has a “pan-India appeal and the ability to keep the Congress united”, some whisper that those leaders “with challenger potential” have long been “cordoned off” from the party or its central leadership.

Yet, Gandhi and AICC will have to, for two main reasons, prop up a fresh team –– both at the AICC and in many PCCs –– to face the gruelling tasks of the next five years as most of ‘young Team RG’ members have proved to be completely apolitical and ineffective, and many of the seasoned senior Congress leaders are by now increasingly exhausted and ageing.

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