NEW DELHI – Rahul Gandhi, who is putting up a spirited campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat, was on Monday elected the President of the Congress, taking over from his mother who had helmed the country’s oldest party for 19 long years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated his political bete noire and wished him a fruitful tenure.
“I congratulate Rahul Ji on his election as Congress President. My best wishes for a fruitful tenure,” Modi tweeted.
The 47-year-old Rahul will formally take over the reins of the grand old party on December 16, two days before the counting of votes for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections, the outcome of which could be a trendsetter ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Congress leader and returning officer Mullappally Ramachandran told the media that a total of 89 nomination papers proposing the name of Rahul Gandhi for Congress President were received. All the nomination papers were found valid.
“Since the withdrawal date and time is over and as there is only one candidate, as per Article XVIII(d) of the Constitution of Indian National Congress, I hereby declare Rahul Gandhi elected as President of the Indian National Congress,” he said.
Marking a generational shift, Rahul Gandhi will be the sixth Nehru-Gandhi scion to helm the party, taking over from his mother Sonia Gandhi who steered it through an era during which it was in power from 2004 to 2014.
“This is a historic occasion. The handing over of the certificate of election is scheduled to be held on December 16 at 11 a.m.,” Ramachandran said.
He said Rahul Gandhi was a stickler for rules and was particular about ensuring that the elections were conducted in a transparent and meaningful manner.
“Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never interfered with the election authority. We were given complete freedom to execute the onerous responsibility,” he said.
He also said: “We place on record the exemplary guidance and support given by Sonia Gandhiji and Rahul Gandhiji. At the first meeting of the Central Election Authority Sonia Gandhiji had given us only one mandate i.e. to conduct free, fair and transparent election, keeping in view the high traditions and heritage of Congress.
“The only request that Soniaji placed before us was that women, weaker sections and youth should be given adequate representation,” Ramachandran added.
Senior Congress leader and Leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “Whole nation has a lot of expectations from Rahul Gandhi. He has shown his mettle much before he was elected the president. He knows his responsibility well and has shown this in Gujarat.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: “An aspirational leader, whose most endearing quality is his ‘sincerity’ and ‘sense of purpose’ takes over as new President of the Congress.”
“Congress, its workers are ready to take on new challenges, traverse new heights and serve the nation,” he added.
Gandhi’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra also congratulated him on becoming the party chief and said it is the “dawn of a new era” and a “proud moment for all in the family”.
“My best wishes to @OfficeOfRG on becoming @INCIndia President,” Vadra tweeted.
Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken addressing mediapersons said “only time will tell what will be his role as party president”. He also added that the programme for the handing over ceremony scheduled on December 16 will be released later.
It is expected that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, current and former Chief Ministers, senior Congress leaders, and all PCC chiefs and delegates will be present at the handing over ceremony.
Gandhi had been the party Vice President for over four years since 2013.
Among the proposers of 89 nominations — all in support of Gandhi — was former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who called Rahul Gandhi the “darling” of the party. Manmohan Singh accompanied Gandhi when he filed the nomination papers.
Originally 90 nomination forms were issued but one could not be filed as there were not enough number of proposers.
Hundreds of Congress workers and leaders from across the country thronged the party office and celebrated the announcement of Rahul Gandhi’s elevation by bursting crackers and dancing to the beat of drums and distributing sweets.