Rahul Gandhi set to take over as Congress party president

Forty-seven year-old Gandhi family scion has emerged as the main challenger to PM Narendra Modi for 2019 polls.

    Rahul Gandhi set to take over as Congress party president
    Rahul Gandhi faces enormous challenge to revive the fortunes of his party [Amit Dave/Reuters]

    India's oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, has the decks cleared for electing its new president, Gandhi family scion and current vice president, Rahul Gandhi.

    No one challenged his presidency bid on Monday. Forty-seven-year-old Rahul was nominated by former Indian president and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    Flanked by senior party leaders like Kamal Nath, Moti Lal Vora and Sheila Dixit among others, Gandhi arrived to the beating of drums at party headquarters 24 Akbar Road, in the capital New Delhi on Monday.

    Rahul has been the darling of Congress men and Congress women. Today is just one more step in his quest for serving the people of the country

    Manmohan Singh, ex-PM

    #IndiaWithRahulGandhi was the top trending topic on Twitter in India, as the 47-year-old filed his bid for the top job.

    When he formally takes over, he will become the 16th president of the Congress party succeeding his mother, Sonia Gandhi, who served as president of the party for 19 long years.

    Three members of the Congress party have been Prime Ministers, including Rahul's father Rajiv, grandmother Indira and great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru.

    The Indian National Congress party has ruled India for most of the years since independence from British colonial rule in 1947. It was formed in 1885 to foster opposition to the British Raj (rule).

    But the party has been in a state of decline for the past few years.

    Enormous challenges

    With his elevation, Rahul Gandhi faces enormous challenges. His party is facing its biggest crisis since Independence.

    India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah have vowed to make India "Congress-mukt" (Congress-free).

    Modi took a dig at Rahul's elevation on Monday at al election rally in the western state of Gujarat.

    "I congratulate the Congress on their 'Aurangzeb Raj.' For us, the well-being of the people matters and 125 crore [1.25 billion] Indians are our high command," Modi said, obliquely equating Rahul to medieval Muslim ruler Aurangzeb.

    The Congress party had delivered its worst performance to date in the 2014 general elections when the party was reduced to 48 members in the 545-seat parliament. They have also lost many state elections since then.

    Saeed Naqvi, senior commentator and analyst, said Rahul's elevation was on the cards "for a long while".

    Naqvi said that there were distinct opinions about Rahul - one based on his public utterances while those who met him privately painted a different picture.

    "A leader has got to stand on a stage and connect with the public. That electricity, that charisma - he does not have but he might develop these over a period of time.

    "So far, his record is unsatisfactory," he said.

    The party, however, is extremely confident in its leader. Congress leader and a former minister, Shashi Tharoor, described him as "the renaissance man''.

    "Rahul has been the darling of Congress men and Congress women. Today is just one more step in his quest for serving the people of the country," the former PM Singh said on Monday.

    Senior Party leader Kapil Sibbal told Al Jazeera that "Rahul has been extremely effective in countering the BJP and the party will rally behind him".

    He worked briefly at a management consulting firm in London before being elected as Member of Parliament from the party’s traditional Amethi constituency in 2004.

    Rahul was born in 1970 to Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi. He has an MPhil degree from Cambridge University’s Trinity College.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News



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