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India

‘It was inevitable’: Rahul Gandhi poised to take over from his mother as leader of India’s Congress party

Rahul, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, was elected vice-president of the Congress party in 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 10:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 December, 2017, 10:23pm

Rahul Gandhi could be named head of India’s opposition Congress party within hours, a source said, shortly after he filed his candidacy for the role on Monday.

Speculation has been rife for months that the 47-year-old vice-president of the party would soon take over from his mother Sonia, who has led Congress for 19 years.

Elections for the post had been scheduled for December 16, but with hours to go before nominations close, no one else has yet come forward publicly as a candidate.

“It was inevitable as nobody but a Gandhi can head the Congress party,” said Arati Jerath, a New Delhi-based author and political analyst. “After the 2014 debacle and string of assembly election defeats, the biggest challenge for Rahul is to create a robust organisation that can win elections. Unless he addresses this issue, Congress will just die out.”

Congress has not said officially what will happen if there are no other candidates, but on Monday it appeared to be gearing up for a coronation.

“Compassion, humility & determination are just a few qualities that make Rahul Gandhi an ideal #CongressPresident and leader,” read a tweet from the party’s official handle.

It was inevitable as nobody but a Gandhi can head the Congress party
Arati Jerath, analyst

Manmohan Singh, who headed the last Congress government, predicted Rahul would “carry on the great traditions of the Congress party”.

One party source said on condition of anonymity that Rahul may be named president by the end of the day.

Rahul, whose father, grandmother and great-grandfather all served as prime minister, was elected vice-president of the Congress party in 2013 and has long been his mother’s presumed successor.

But he was strongly criticised for a lacklustre campaign for the 2014 general election, in which Congress recorded its worst-ever showing and lost power to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Since the national election defeat, the party has lost polls in many states to the BJP, exposing him to further criticism and doubts about his ability as a leader.

But few inside the party have been willing publicly to criticise the family that has been at its helm for generations.

Congress has ruled India for most of the time since independence in 1947 and has almost always been led by the Nehru-Gandhi clan, beginning with the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Rahul has led campaigning for upcoming elections in Gujarat state, with Sonia Gandhi taking a back seat in recent months.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg