Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers for the post of Congress president in New Delhi on Monday, setting off the countdown to his unopposed elevation to the party’s top post.
Monday was the last date of filing nominations and the last date for withdrawal of names is December 11.
Mullapally Ramachandran, chairman of the Congress’ central election authority (CEA), told reporters that till Sunday no other nomination had been filed.
Mr Gandhi, 47, will take over the party’s mantle from his mother, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who has been the longest serving Congress president.
Mr Gandhi’s elevation comes at a time when he is leading the Congress’ charge for Gujarat elections against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Before filing his nomination papers, Mr Gandhi went to meet former President of India Pranab Mukherjee and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Dr Singh, who accompanied Mr Gandhi to 24, Akbar Road, the party’s headquarters, said, “Rahulji has been the darling of the Congress. Our president Mrs Sonia Gandhi has served the Congress party and, through the Congress 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.”
Several senior leaders as well as young turks of the party had also accompanied Mr Gandhi for the filing of his nomination papers.
Mr Gandhi will be the sixth leader from the Nehru-Gandhi family to occupy the Congress Party’s top post. His appointment is being seen as a generational shift that holds hope for the Congress which has been reduced to 46 seats in the 542-member Lok Sabha.
Though Mr Gandhi’s political engagement and involvement in party work increased tremendously since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, insiders indicate that there will be two key advisors who will be directly reporting to the new Congress president.
On several occasions Mr Gandhi has indicated that there will be a judicious mix of young and experienced leaders in the party and nobody will be left out.
Mr Gandhi, who began his political career by winning the 2004 Lok Sabha election from the family bastion of Amethi, has already seen several ups and downs.
In 2006, Mr Gandhi became the general secretary of the party in-charge of frontal organisations, including the Indian Youth Congress, and was criticised for introducing internal elections as it encouraged blatant use of money power to bag tickets. The practice has since been discontinued.
Mr Gandhi also wanted to introduce primaries, like in the Unites States of America, for contesting Lok Sabha elections, a move that was heavily contested by party leaders.
In 2013, after much demand from within the party, he was elevated as Congress vice-president. But close to the end of UPA-II’s tenure, Mr Gandhi upset his own party leaders when he threatened to tear up an ordinance that allowed convicted leaders to contest elections till the final appeal had been disposed. He studiously refused any Cabinet position under both the terms of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government.
In his parliamentary career, Mr Gandhi has backed the Forests Rights Act, Food security Act, Land Acquisition Act and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Mr Gandhi has led the Congress thrice into Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and has lost.