READ: Amid Resignation Drama, This List Of Non-Nehru-Gandhi Congress Presidents Shows How It's Always Been 'loyalty Or Obscurity'

Politics

A glimpse at the past reveals that Congress, especially since Indira Gandhi becoming the party chief, has chosen Gandhi family loyalist as presidents, thereby allowing the family to hold control of the party

Written By Apoorva Rao | Mumbai | Updated On:

Following the grand old party's humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi had offered to resign as Congress president. However, the party has unanimously asked him to continue and guide them, and even bestowed upon him full authority to overhaul the party.

As per sources, however, there remain a faction within the Congress that has demanded a change in the top leadership after the party's disastrous performance which includes Rahul Gandhi losing in his family's stronghold in Amethi to BJP's Smriti Irani and the party being whitewashed in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where it had won assembly elections less than six months ago. 

Amidst the conundrum, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav opined on Twitter to the stories of Rahul Gandhi's plans to quit as party chief as 'suicidal' and said that if someone outside of the Nehru-Gandhi family is appointed in his stead, the BJP would paint them as a 'puppet'.

READ | "Rahul Gandhi's Offer To Resign Is Suicidal," Warns Lalu Prasad Backing The Congress President And Telling Regional Powers Their Biggest Blunder In 2019 Lok Sabha Polls

However, a glimpse at the past reveals that the party, especially since Indira Gandhi becoming the party chief, has almost exclusively chosen Gandhi family loyalists as presidents, thereby allowing the family to hold control no matter who is in the top job. Those who didn't conform, on the other hand, were deposed. 

Here is the list of Congress party chiefs since the Independence:

Jawaharlal Nehru 

He had held the post in 1952 while serving as the first Prime Minister of India. 

U.N. Dhebar - 1955-59

After his term as the Gujarat Chief Minister from 1948-54, Dhebar was the Congress president between 1955-59. He was later elected to the Lok Sabha from Rajkot.

Indira Gandhi took over as party president in 1959,  a move which got criticism for nepotism. Even Jawaharlal Nehru disapproved the move and called it “wholly undemocratic and an undesirable thing”. She later served as party chief between 1978-1983, and again from 1983 till her assassination in 1984.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy - 1960-63

He was the sixth President of India. He had also served as the Congress president thrice. He had resigned from his party after becoming the Lok Sabha Speaker in order to stress upon the importance of the Speaker’s non-partisan nature.

He lost the presidential elections in 1969 to VV Giri and retired from politics. 

He came back into politics as a Janata Party candidate and won in the Lok Sabha elections and was chosen to be the Speaker. But he resigned from his post to become the President of India from 1977-82.

K Kamaraj - 1964-67

He earned the title of 'Kingmaker' in the political circle. He is credited to have made Lal Bahadur Shastri’ as the Prime Minister and elevation of Indira Gandhi as the Congress president.

Nijalingappa - 1968-69

He served as the Chief Minister of Karnataka  (then Mysore State). He took over the reins of the Congress in 1968. He expelled Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from Congress for anti-party activities. He was the party president between 1956 and 1958 and once again, between 1962 and 1968. 

Jagjivan Ram - 1970-71

A Congress loyalist, he had joined the Congress faction led by Indira Gandhi following the split in the party. He was the first president of the faction which was recognised as the original Congress by Election Commission of India. 

He later joined the Janata Party became the Deputy Prime Minister. 

Shankar Dayal Sharma - 1972-74

A close confidante of Indira Gandhi, he became the party president in 1962. He later became the Vice President and President of India. 

Devakanta Barua - 1975-77

He too was a close confidante of Indira Gandhi and led the party in the Emergency era. During his term. His phrase,  “India is Indira, Indira is India,” reverberates in Indian political discourse even to this day.

Rajiv Gandhi became the Congress president in 1985 following Indira Gandhi's assassination and remained in the post until his assassination in 1991.

PV Narasimha Rao 1992-96

He took upon the mantle in 1992 following Rajiv Gandhi's death. He was believed to be replaced as the president with Sitaram Kesri following a coup and is alleged to have been unfairly treated in the retelling of Congress history.

Sitaram Kesri

He was the Congress president for two years. He too is believed to be removed as the party chief through a coup by Sonia Gandhi's loyalists.

Sonia Gandhi became the president in 1998 and led the party till 2017. She has had the longest term (19 years) as the party president. 

Rahul Gandhi became the Congress chief in 2017. He tendered his resignation as the Congress president following the massive defeat of the party by the BJP. His resignation was rejected by the party.

READ | Now, Senior Congress Leader Veerappa Moily Backs Rahul Gandhi's As Party President, Says 'It's Not The Question Of Finding A Person Outside The Family'

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