Amid the mess within the Congress on who will lead the party after the resignation of its chief Rahul Gandhi, party veteran Natwar Singh on Sunday said that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is apt for the top post. Erupting a controversy, he said that the party will split if a Non-Gandhi becomes the party president.
Praising Priyanka for her visit to Sonbhadra to meet victims of a firing incident, the former external affairs minister told news agency ANI that she is capable of handling the party. Singh suggested that Rahul Gandhi's decision of a having someone from outside the Gandhi family as the party chief will have to be reversed. "You must have witnessed what she did in a village in Uttar Pradesh. It was amazing. She stayed there and achieved what she wanted to," he said.
On being asked if Priyanka would be elected as the party president, the Congressman said, "It will depend on Priyanka because her brother (Rahul Gandhi) had said that nobody from the Gandhi family will become the Congress president. Now, the family will have to reverse the decision and only they can do it."
Shastri, speaking to ANI, had also warned that if somebody else is made the supremo and a section of the outfit does not accept them, chances are that the party will disintegrate. Natwar Singh echoed similar sentiments and said that if anyone is elected from outside the Gandhi family, the Congress will split within 24 hours. He said that it is unfortunate that the country's 134-years-old party does not have a party president and added that no one apart from the Gandhi family should be elected as the president.
Earlier, Anil Shastri, son of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, had said that Priyanka Gandhi should be made the Congress president as no one other than her is "100 per cent acceptable".
Sources informed that an internal tussle for top position has led to factionalism within the Congress party between the old gaurd of loyalists and the young leaders. The name that has cropped up as a potential successor among the latter grouping is that of Sachin Pilot who is currently the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan. During Rajasthan assembly elections, Sachin Pilot had lost out amid similar circumstances as Ashok Gehlot was picked to be CM, just as in Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia was overlooked in favour of loyalist Kamal Nath. Among the old gaurd, leaders like AK Antony, Prithviraj Chavan, Kamal Nath wants the leadership to be with the Gandhi family loyalists. Earlier, Party veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar had said, "I am sure we can survive if we have to without a Nehru-Gandhi as the titular head of the party, provided the Nehru-Gandhis remain active in the party and can help resolve a crisis in case serious differences arise.
Around 50 days after Rahul Gandhi stepped down as Congress president, taking moral responsibility for the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, the grand old party is yet to finalize its new chief. He is now a lawmaker from Wayanad in Kerala, became the Congress president in 2017. He had, earlier this month, written a lengthy four-page letter making his resignation from the post public. Taking responsibility for the drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, Rahul Gandhi had said it would not be right for him to suggest a successor.
At present Congress in Goa has completely lost foot, after 10 of its MLAs switched side with the BJP. This has reduced its strength to five in the Assembly. Similarly, in Karnataka, the situation is equally embarrassing for the party, as its coalition government with JD(S) is facing a tough time. The government had slumped into a crisis following the resignation of 16 dissident MLAs and now its survival seems to be tough. The Congress won 52 seats in the recent general elections, which is just eight more than its 2014 Lok Sabha tally of 44.