Happy about internal polls, will play ‘neutral role’: Sonia Gandhi | India News

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have told party leaders that internal elections are good for the organisation, and that she will play a “neutral role” in the process.
The remarks have been variously interpreted, with some believing that her being “neutral” suggests that Rahul Gandhi is not ready to take back the reins of the party and may not agree to contest, and that an open contest was welcome.
However, Rahul himself has not announced his decision yet, while there is growing pressure from state units that he should take over, which has created a strange situation and triggered fresh uncertainty.
As per Congress sources, “Sonia is very happy about the elections, and she said she will play a neutral role in it as it unfolds. She is of the view that polls will generate more interest in the party and will strengthen it.” Sonia is said to have given her views on the presidential polls since her return from an overseas trip on Friday.
Meanwhile, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor Monday dropped another hint that he may file the nomination, and make the race for the top post a contest. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot is the first choice of the Congress brass, even though some other standby candidates are also said to be lined up for an emergency —Mallikarjuna Kharge, Mukul Wasnik, Kumari Selja, KC Venugopal, Digvijaya Singh. It may be a “Tharoor vs Gehlot” face-off.
Tharoor met Sonia on Monday, hours after endorsing an online petition floated by a group of Congress members demanding that potential presidential candidates should pledge to implement the organisational reforms adopted in the Udaipur chintan shivir declaration.
Tharoor tweeted, “I welcome this petition that is being circulated by a group of young Congress members, seeking constructive reforms in the party… I am happy to endorse it and to go beyond it.”
Though Rahul is said to be unwilling, confusion prevails in the wake of the state party units passing resolutions urging him to become the president — with Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, and Jammu and Kashmir Monday joining Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat in the list that is set to grow in the coming days.
However, sources said the election process is unlikely to be impacted by the “sentiments” of the state units. AICC election watchdog Madhusudan Mistry has said the nomination process will start from September 24 as scheduled. The buzz was that Sonia spoke to Mistry in the wake of state resolutions.
AICC office-bearers J P Aggarwal and Avinash Pande also met Sonia on Monday, while Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda met Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Tharoor has in recent days favoured a contest, and it is believed that he will join the fray if a Gandhi family member is not fighting.
If the Gandhis, Rahul and Priyanka, stay away from the presidential poll, Rajasthan CM Gehlot is seen as the frontrunner to replace Sonia. Gehlot’s whirlwind tour of Rajasthan districts to attend the “Rajiv Gandhi rural Olympics” is seen by many as his farewell tour.

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