The Congress Working Committee (CWC) is expected to meet soon to take a call on extending the tenure of Sonia Gandhi, who completes a year as the party’s interim chief on August 10.
A Congress functionary said the extension would be a technical requirement as per the party constitution because a regular president is yet to be elected.
The party also has to inform the Election Commission of India (ECI) of its decision as a prerequisite condition.
He said the process of electing a new president could not be initiated because of the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, and the nationwide lockdown restrictions enforced since March 25 to contain the pandemic.
“Soon after her appointment, there were assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana in October-November last year, followed by elections in Jharkhand and Delhi. Then, the Covid-19 struck,” he added.
The CWC had named Sonia Gandhi as the party’s interim chief on August 10, 2019, after Rahul Gandhi refused to take back his resignation.
He had quit the Congress president’s post following the party’s humiliating defeat in last year’s parliamentary elections.
The Congress had managed to win 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) tally of 303.
At the fractious CWC meeting on May 25, 2019, Rahul Gandhi had slammed the veterans for “placing the interests” of their sons above the party and cited that some leaders had even lost the election from their strongholds. He had also criticised a section of the GenNext leaders for hankering after posts.
Rahul Gandhi brought finality to his decision to step down as the party president on July 3, when he tweeted a four-page farewell note listing the reasons for his resignation.
In the letter, Rahul Gandhi took a dig at his party colleagues for the electoral drubbing the Congress had received and spoke about the lack of support to him, saying he had stood completely alone in the fight against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
“I personally fought the Prime Minister, the RSS, and the institutions they have captured with all my being. I fought because I love India. And I fought to defend the ideals India was built upon. At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it,” he had written.
In the August CWC meeting last year, Sonia Gandhi had accepted to lead the party once again after repeated pleas by her colleagues and only on the condition that she would stay on as the interim chief till the election to choose a full-time president was held.
The Congress’s highest decision-making body had taken the call out of deference to the sentiments of Rahul Gandhi, who was anointed the party president on December 16, 2017.
Sonia Gandhi (73) had then said that her move would again give a handle to the opponents to attack the Congress on the grounds that the Gandhi family was unwilling to give up its hold over the party.
She had also insisted that this point be included in a resolution that read: “Consequently, the CWC unanimously resolved to request Smt. Sonia Gandhi to take over Interim President pending the election of a regular President by the AICC.”
The Congress constitution empowers the CWC to appoint a provisional president pending the election of a regular chief by the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the party’s central unit comprising around 2,000 members from across the country.
There has been a renewed pitch for Rahul Gandhi to take over as the party chief once again, but at least four Congress leaders said on the condition of anonymity that he is still adamant about his decision and is unlikely to assume the reins of the organisation in the near future.
The CWC would again make a last-ditch attempt to persuade Rahul Gandhi (50) and in case he refuses to relent, it would consider extending Sonia Gandhi’s term as the interim party president, said the party functionary quoted above.
In her previous stint, Sonia Gandhi remained at the helm for nearly two decades from March 14, 1998, to December 16, 2017, when Rahul Gandhi took over from her.