New Delhi, March 1: Rahul Gandhi owes it to the Congress to resume presidentship and dispel uncertainty about the future leadership issue as the party does not have the luxury of time, former law minister Ashwani Kumar said on Sunday.
Kumar noted that as long as the Gandhis choose to remain active in the Congress, the centrality of their role “is a given” and only if Rahul Gandhi decides not to relent, can another leader be chosen “through consensus and not elections”.
In an interview to PTI, Kumar said, “Given the ground realities of politics in the country today, I think Rahul Gandhi owes it to the party to resume leadership, inspire party persons and win the trust of the nation in the better tradition of the public.”
The Congress veteran noted that the almost unanimous opinion is for Rahul Gandhi to succeed interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi and he should be “directed to do so, if required”.
“We do not have the luxury of time. In these days of shifting political loyalties people will not wait endlessly for us to get our house in order,” he said.
“The uncertainty on future leadership needs to be dispelled. It is already late as if today is yesterday. If necessary, a direction can be given to Rahul Gandhi to assume leadership,” Mr Kumar said, adding that Sonia Gandhi had accepted only to remain as the interim president.
He said the opposition unity in the country, which is a prime need today, can be facilitated only by the Congress as a catalyst. “The urgency of settling the leadership question within the Congress is therefore apparent and evident,” Mr Kumar said.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi, having suffered electoral setbacks in the recent past, can rejuvenate the party, Kumar said he certainly deserves to lead the party once more.
“We know that at this point of time the almost unanimous opinion is for Rahul Gandhi to succeed Sonia Gandhi. It is true that he did not do well in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and that is why he tendered his resignation.
“But his political priorities are anchored in idealism and I am sure if and when he returns as Congress president, he will address the organisational shortcomings,” Kumar said.
He rejected suggestions of some his colleagues who are seeking organisational elections to settle the leadership issue and said consensus is the best way forward.
“I doubt very much whether, through an election by itself, we can strengthen the party’s organisation given the present constitution of the electoral college. Elections are no guarantee of the party’s rejuvenation. They tend to be divisive and are known to leave bitterness behind,” Mr Kumar said, noting that the top organisational structure of the Congress has always been built on consensus.
On the question that Rahul Gandhi himself batted for a non-Gandhi to succeed him, Kumar said the unanimous view is that Rahul Gandhi should take over the Congress.
“We know that when Rahul Gandhi resigned and a process was initiated to identify other leaders, not a single name emerged as an alternative. Under these circumstances, there is ample justification for insisting that Rahul Gandhi accepts the responsibility to lead the Congress. If he chooses not to relent only then should a leader be found through consensus,” Kumar said.
The former Rajya Sabha MP rejected BJP’s charge of dynastic politics in the Congress, saying the Gandhis have been baptized by fire.
“The charge of dynastic politics is totally wrong, considering that the leadership of the Gandhis has been tested in the public arena in tough electoral battles. The Gandhis have been baptized by fire so to say,” he said.
Kumar added that the future president of the Congress will have to win the trust of the people and the nation.
The Gandhis had an emotional connect with the party and as long as they are active, the centrality of their role “is a given”, he said. (PTI)