Rahul Gandhi today ruled out returning as Congress president, a post he gave up last year after his party was pulverised in the national election. “I stand by my letter,” he said to NDTV’s question on the possibility of his comeback as Congress boss, given his noticeably stronger interest in party affairs during the coronavirus lockdown.
The 49-year-old Congress MP was responding to the question during a digital press conference, his second since the country went into lockdown to slow the spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
These media interactions and his new series of video chats with eminent personalities like Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee had ignited speculation that the Congress was working to the plan of rebranding Rahul Gandhi, giving him a bigger profile as someone who can challenge the government on its policies and bringing him back to the top post.
Was it a closed chapter or could it be reopened, Mr Gandhi was asked. “My position is clear, as I stated in my letter, which was to step down and serve the party and give input and advice,” he said.
In his letter in July, weeks after the Lok Sabha election results, Mr Gandhi had said: “As president of the Congress party, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 election… I am available to the party whenever they require my services, input or advice.”
To another question on whether his conversations with Raghuram Rajan, Abhijit Banerjee and others were part of a bigger strategy, he said: “I speak to a lot of people. A lot of conversations are interesting. I thought I would like to give a glimpse of these conversations to the people of India. There is no other strategy.”
After the Congress’s fruitless search for a new chief last year, Mr Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi took over as interim president in August.
Eight months later, there is still no new candidate for the top Congress job, which reinforced talk about another stint for Mr Gandhi.
The party, in serious crisis with senior Congress leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia shifting to the ruling BJP earlier this year, has attempted to move focus from the disarray by aggressively taking on the government on its handling of the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown, which has had the worst impact on the poorest and migrant workers.