Rahul Gandhi takes over as Congress President

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International desk, December 16: Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress president on Saturday from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who has led India’s oldest party for 19 years, reports NDTV.

Rahul Gandhi, the 47-year-old, who has for years been seen as a reluctant politician but has lately shown signs of shedding that image, officially took charge in a ceremony on the lawns of the party’s 24 Akbar Road headquarters in Delhi.

Celebrations started early at the office, where drumbeats and folk dancers from various states welcomed hordes of party workers holding flags and banners.

Rahul Gandhi is the fifth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to lead the Congress; no one challenged his elevation in the organization election that critics describe as a sham.

“Led by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress will once again be seen a new role in Rashtranirman (nation-building),” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.

On the future role of Sonia Gandhi, 71, who on Friday talked about retiring, Mr Surjewala said: “We don’t retire seniors, we use their experience…Be it Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh, they will remain important for the party.”

Sonia Gandhi, who took over in 1998 and is the party’s longest-serving president, told NDTV on Friday: “My role now is to retire.” She also said it had been her son Rahul who had been playing an active role in all decisions in the past three years.

Congress leaders quickly clarified that Sonia Gandhi was retiring only as Congress president, not from politics.

Rahul Gandhi is widely expected to begin his presidency with two new defeats for the Congress, which has been struggling to win elections since it lost power at the centre in 2014.

What the Congress calls a “new era” comes two days before election results for two states that exit polls say the party won’t win – Gujarat, where the BJP has ruled for 22 years, and Himachal Pradesh, which the Congress had barely won in the previous election.