New Delhi: The Congress on Saturday decided to appoint Sonia Gandhi once again as the interim president. The decision to this effect was taken in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held in two sessions.

Coming out of the meeting late night, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad announced that Sonia Gandhi would be the interim president. Another party leader said this arrangement will continue till the party decided to appoint its president.

The CWC first met on Saturday morning at the AICC headquarters to decide on Rahul Gandhi’s successor. However, since no decision could be taken, another meeting was convened late in the evening. Rahul Gandhi was again requested to reconsider his decision to resign, but he remained firm. After this, the CWC urged Sonia Gandhi to take over as the president, which she accepted.

In the morning meeting, five sub-groups, consisting of 390 senior leaders, were formed region wise—northeast, east, north, west and south—to choose the new party president. These 390 persons, including state presidents, working presidents and office-bearers, consulted by the five groups, rejected the resignation of Rahul Gandhi.

The morning meeting lasted for about two hours. However, Gandhi remained firm on his decision to resign, after which the CWC again decided to meet late in the evening at 8.30 pm. Rahul Gandhi is supposed to leave for Wayanad for a two-day visit on Sunday.

Sources said during the morning meeting, there was clamour across all the sub-groups for Rahul Gandhi to be made president again, though he was not keen to take up the responsibility. Before the meeting, several names were doing the rounds for the post, including those of Mukul Wasnik and Mallikarjun Kharge.

After Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress president following debacle in the recent Lok Sabha elections and remained firm on his stand of not going back, the party agreed to go through the process of choosing the new president from outside the Gandhi family.

Interestingly, in the morning session, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi left the meeting, saying they did not want to be part of the process to choose the successor to the post of party chief. At that time, it appeared that the Congress was finally going to getting out of the Gandhi family. But all the five sub-groups, including Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Vadra, rejected Rahul Gandhi’s resignation and appealed him to take back his resignation.

Sources said that though Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi left the meeting to give the message that they were not part of the consultations, questions are being raised over the manner in which the five sub-groups were constituted. “Who constituted these sub-groups when the president himself has resigned? Also what was the basis of including these names? It appears that the entire process is stage-managed and only ‘selected’ persons were included,” wondered a source.

Equally surprising was the fact that party strongman Amarinder Singh, who is known for his independent way of working, did not come for the CWC meeting. Party sources claimed that those who did not attend the meeting would be asked for their suggestions.

Besides Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, the CWC meeting was attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Priyanka Vadra, Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Ahmed Patel, P. Chidambaram and several others.

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