Ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s big moment, supporters and party workers are already at the Congress headquarters on New Delhi’s Akbar Road. The young president-elect has a big task ahead of him.
Rahul Gandhi, for so long the scion and the heir to the throne, will be crowned king today. Yes, the Congress vice-president will finally become the party’s president, days after he was elected unopposed to a post which his mother, Sonia Gandhi, has held for nearly two decades: a party record.
The Congress will throw a big bash in the national capital later today to celebrate its young leader’s ascent to the party’s highest executive position, which has been held by several members of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi are among them.
Yesterday, Sonia Gandhi said her role now was to retire. In a tweet, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala made it clear that she was retiring only from her position, and not from politics.
“Her blessings, wisdom and innate commitment to Congress ideology shall always be our guiding light,” Surjewala wrote.
Rahul Gandhi takes charge as Congress president at a crucial time for the party, less than two years before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Under his leadership, the INC fought tooth-and-nail in the bitterly contested Gujarat election. While exit polls say the Congress will not unseat Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s BJP, they unanimously predict an increase in the party’s seat share in the state Assembly.
Whether or not the party wins on counting day, it’s true – as one report noted – that the Congress “has rarely shown such energy and enthusiasm on the ground and social media” as it did during the Gujarat election.” Under Rahul Gandhi’s presidency, the Grand Old Party will look to use that momentum going forward: Next year, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland will elect new assemblies. Three of the four big states (Karnataka being the exception) are ruled by the BJP.
What can Indians expect from Rahul Gandhi Raj? Time will tell, but in the meantime, read the cover story of last week’s India Today magazine: ‘Will He Fit The Cap?’ In it, Kaushik Deka asks whether Rahul can revive a Congress party weakened both at the Centre and in the states. Also read Shiv Vishvanathan’s ‘The Prince is Dead, Long Live the Leader.’