NEW DELHI: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh best summed up the mood among Congress members who had gathered at the party headquarters on Monday.
“Rahul ji has been the darling of the Congress,” said Dr. Singh, who was one of the proposers for Rahul Gandhi’s candidature as the party president.
“Congress president Shrimati Sonia Gandhi has served the Congress party and, through the party, the country for the last 19 years. This is yet another step forward in that direction. Rahul Gandhi will carry on the great traditions of the Congress party,” he said.
Former cricketer and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was effusive in his praise of the Congress leader. “A leader is someone who converts weakness into strength, obstacles into stepping stones and disasters into triumphs,” said Mr. Sidhu.
He said when the UPA was in power, Dr. Manmohan Singh and competent people like P. Chidamabaram were in the front but when the party lost the 2014 elections, Rahul Gandhi was in front to take the criticism. “This is the character of a good leader,” declared the former cricketer.
Several leaders also answered the criticism that the party’s internal polls were fixed to make Mr. Gandhi win without facing a real contest. “I had rejected the allegations then and I am doing it again now. If they had the courage, they should have filed their nomination,” senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Modi had endorsed Maharashtra Congress functionary Shehzad Ponawalla’s charge that the party’s internal polls were rigged in favour of Mr. Gandhi.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the BJP was upset with the process as “unlike the Congress party and the Gandhi-Nehru family, it didn’t have any leader who fought for the freedom struggle or united the country post Independence.”
Senior Anand Sharma also answered the criticism that Mr. Gandhi is being elevated as the party president ahead of December 18 counting day of the Assembly polls to shield him from criticism in case the Congress fares poorly in the Assembly polls. “We want to make it absolutely clear that it is a conscious and well-considered decision of the Congress party,” said Mr. Sharma.