'Time right for Rahul Gandhi to return as party chief'

Cong feels time is right for Rahul Gandhi to return as party chief: Harish Rawat

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI Photo)

Amid growing concerns in the Congress over leadership issue, senior party leader Harish Rawat on Sunday put his weight behind Rahul Gandhi and said it is the right time for him to return as party chief.

His remarks come when party leaders like Shashi Tharoor and Sandeep Dikshit have called for fresh elections to the Congress' top post, respecting Rahul Gandhi's decision to opt-out.

Rawat said Rahul Gandhi's message of accountability in the wake of party's Lok Sabha poll debacle has been received well and its purpose fulfilled and it is time for him to move forward.

"The party's rank and file want that Rahul Gandhi should again take over as Congress chief. We strongly feel that this is the right time for him to take over as the country is facing several issues," Rawat told PTI.

"The Congress leadership feels this is the time when Rahul Gandhi should come forward and lead the party once again," he said, adding that there are concerns over Sonia Gandhi's health and she should not be over-burdened.

The former Uttarakhand chief minister, however, said the final call will be taken by Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi was appointed as the interim Congress president in August last year after Rahul Gandhi resigned taking moral responsibility for the party's Lok Sabha poll debacle.

Rawat said social divisions being created in the country due to issues like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a sharp rise in unemployment, economic downturn and agrarian crisis make it important for Rahul Gandhi to return soon.

The AICC general secretary noted that these issues are responsible for the country being in "complete disarray".

Asked about Priyanka Gandhi Vadra assuming a more significant role in the party, Rawat said she is already part of the Congress leadership.

"Priyanka Gandhi has said several times that Rahul Gandhi is her leader. There is no confusion regarding her role in the party," he said.

Speculation is rife that the Congress will hold a plenary session in April after the Budget session of Parliament is over.

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