Congress needs to find a leader urgently: Shashi Tharoor

Kusum Tewari

Stung by a washout in the Delhi elections,
Congress leaders are calling for urgent action on a leadership vacuum at the top.
Shashi Tharoor tells TOI why it has become vital for Congress to dispel the notion that the party is in limbo and rudderless.

Should the Congress leader be a non-Gandhi as Rahul said when he resigned?
I think the question of whether or not the next president of Congress will be from the Gandhi family often misses the much larger concern, which is that Congress is indispensable for India, to give the country an alternative unifying vision to the divisive policies of the BJP government. We do need to find ourselves a new president to fill the vacuum created in the wake of
Rahul Gandhi’s resignation and, we need to do so without any further delay. I wish he hadn’t resigned. But if he persists in his determination, we need to find a full-time leadership so the party can move forward. To do this, we need to ensure there is a participatory democratic process through which this candidate emerges as it would significantly add to the winner’s credibility which would be a vital asset as to address organisational challenges. Obviously if a member of the Gandhi family stood for elections, they would be welcomed effusively. But I sincerely hope that the process is expedited. The perception that we are in limbo and rudderless needs to be dispelled immediately.

How soon should the process of changing the leadership happen?
The urgent need for this to be made a priority comes from the public and the media being increasingly prepared to write us off, as reflected in the magnitude of our defeat in Delhi. Those results make clear that we simply cannot afford to let this perception go on any longer. There are several other state elections around the corner and a national campaign in four years, which is not a period of time that can be simply tossed off as ‘distant future’. The direction and leadership of a capable and dynamic Congress president is indispensable.

Can Congress have a non-Gandhi as leader since it is generally said the Gandhi family keeps the party together?
There is no denying the clear fact that the Gandhi family has a special place in the hearts of Congress members and with good reason too. Aside from the great legacy they have inherited from their illustrious forebears, they have consistently brought together various groups, ideologies, geographies and communities that collectively make up the fabric of Congress and have a clear record of success and experience in leading the party, both when in government and during tough times in the wilderness. But again, the repeated question of “Gandhi or non-Gandhi” is missing the wood for the trees. The urgent need is to find a new president and I am confident that if we do so through a transparent, democratic electoral process internally, the workers will at the end of the day throw their might and energy behind whoever emerges as the winning candidate.

Is Priyanka Gandhi Vadra the candidate the Congress should look at?
This is not about any individual. I certainly hope that she will throw her name in the ring when the call for elections are officially declared. For one, it must be said that she has a natural charisma which has often prompted many to make comparisons with the late
Indira Gandhi, which could certainly galvanise and rally party workers and voters alike. At the same time, she also comes with organisational experience. But at the end of the day, this will be her personal decision and we must respect that.

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