Rahul mum, Congress looks at Sonia for answers

Former Congress president and Raebareli MP Sonia Gandhi arrives to thank voters after winning the Lok Sabha seat, in Raebareli, on Wednesday. PTI

With Congress president Rahul Gandhi remaining incommunicado, top party leaders went into a huddle on Wednesday to chalk the party strategy for upcoming Assembly elections in four states this year even as they struggled to find a solution to the leadership issue.

While Rahul has yet not given any indication of reconsidering his decision to quit as Congress president, Congress communication department chief Randeep Singh Surjewala put up a brave face asserting that “Rahul was, is and will remain Congress president”.

Amid the buzz of the party thinking of putting in place an institutional mechanism to function in Rahul's absence, Congress leaders were looking at former president Sonia Gandhi to guide the party on key decisions. Options on the discussion table were having working presidents or a multi-member group to take care of the day-to-day functioning of the party.

Senior Congress leader A K Antony had met Sonia on Tuesday but failed to get any indication from him. The former defence minister was now prodding other leaders close to Sonia to meet her to know what was on her mind.

With just five days left for the Lok Sabha session to begin, Sonia, by virtue of being the chairperson of the Congress Party in Parliament, will have to nominate leaders in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Congress in the 16th Lok Sabha and Jyotiraditya Scindia, the chief whip, have lost their respective elections and fresh appointments need to be made to the key posts in the party's parliamentary wing.

“We are just buying time,” a senior party leader said when asked about the meeting of leaders that comprised the Congress Core Group.

Surjewala described the 90-minute deliberations as an “informal meeting under the guidance of A K Antony” on the party strategy for the upcoming elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir.

He made it clear that all committees set up ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, including the Core Group, have been dissolved.

“A meeting of AICC general secretaries and AICC in-charges will be convened shortly to discuss the Lok Sabha poll results,” Surjewala told reporters after the meeting of senior leaders.

Top Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram, K C Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma and Surjewala were present at the meeting chaired by Antony.

Rahul had offered to quit as Congress president at the CWC meeting on May 25, two days after the Lok Sabha election results were declared in which the Congress could manage to win only 52 seats.

The CWC rejected Rahul's resignation offer and instead authorised him to restructure the organisation at all levels.

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