New Congress President Must Listen To Gandhis Views, Says P Chidambaram


P Chidambaram dismissed talk about remote control of new party chief by the Gandhis

New Delhi:

The election of a new Congress president will not diminish the voice of the Gandhis, veteran leader P Chidambaram said today as the party voted for a non-Gandhi chief, the first in decades. He also dismissed what he called the “assumption” that the Gandhis would retain the remote control even after a new Congress chief took charge.

“No one is saying the voice of the Gandhis will diminish,” Mr Chidambaram told NDTV.

“The new President must listen to their views in the Congress Working Committee (CWC), parliamentary board and party forums,” he said.

Some 9,000 delegates, including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadram, voted to choose between Mallikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor. Though the Gandhis are not in the contest, Mr Kharge is widely seen to be their choice for the top post.

Many are skeptical about any radical changes after a new chief takes over; Mr Kharge has already made it clear that he sees “no shame” in seeking the Gandhis’ advice and support.

Mr Chidambaram was among those in the Congress who had pushed for organizational elections as a big step towards reforms to revive the party ahead of the 2024 national election.

Amid criticism of their leadership because of election defeats, the Gandhis have refused to get involved this time and have asserted that a non-Gandhi should take charge.

Mr Chidambaram dismissed talk of “remote-control” by the Gandhis.

“The allegation of the Gandhis remote controlling is an assumption. You think the Gandhis will be able to dictate once leaders are elected at district level through elections?” he questioned.

He said the first job of the new Congress president would be to fix the organisation, hold elections and build teams.

“The political temperature can be raised by a party. But a proper party structure needs to exist and this can be done in 15 months,” he said.

This is the sixth actual election in the 137-year-old party after Independence. For much of its history, members of the Nehru-Gandhi family have been elected unopposed.

For Mr Chidambaram, it was his first-ever vote in an internal election. He quit the Congress in 1997 to join the breakaway Tamil Maanila Congress. He rejoined the Congress just before the 2004 national election.

“I was the first voter today. We were three of us, I voted first. I think it is important to carry out this process. And take the elections down to the district and state level,” Mr Chidambaram said. “The process means we are opening up the party to new people.”


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