Rahul steps down formally

More than a month after declaring his intention, Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday formally resigned as Congress president, saying he is responsible for the loss in the Lok Sabha election and accountability is critical for the party’s future growth.

In a four-page open letter, Gandhi urged the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to entrust a group of people with the task of finding a new president as it would not be proper for him to do so.

The 49-year-old — who has been adamant on his decision to quit as party president since 25 May, two days after the results in which his party won 52 seats — also stressed on the need for the Congress to “radically transform itself”.

Heralding what could be a new era in his party, Gandhi said it had been a honour to serve the Congress, whose values and ideals have served as the lifeblood of “this beautiful nation”.

In a letter that was emotive in places and combative in others, he said he owed the country and his organisation a debt of tremendous gratitude and love.

“As President of the Congress Party, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 election. Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress President,” he said.

“Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as President of the party,” he said in the letter shared on his Twitter account.

Gandhi, the most visible face of his party’s election campaign, noted that he personally fought Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the RSS and the institutions they have captured with all his being.

“I fought because I love India… At times I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it,” he said. 

The Indian nation must unite to reclaim and resuscitate its institutions, Gandhi said. And the instrument of this resuscitation, he added, will be the Congress.

The MP from Wayanad, who lost his Amethi seat, also claimed he did not fight a political party in the 2019 election but the entire machinery of the Indian state.

Taking moral responsibility for the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi resigned as Congress president on 25 May but the CWC rejected his resignation and authorised him to initiate changes in the party to revamp and restructure it at all levels.

“Immediately after resigning, I suggested to my colleagues in the Congress Working Committee that the way forward would be to entrust a group of people with the task of beginning the search for a new President. I have empowered them to do so and committed my full support to this process and a smooth transition,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Gandhi told reporters the CWC should immediately meet to decide on his successor.

Thanking the thousands of people who have written to him, Gandhi said in his letter that he would continue to fight for the ideals of the Congress with all his strength and will be available to the party whenever his services are required.

“It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power, no one sacrifices power. But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle. I was born a Congressman, this party has always been with me and is my lifeblood and forever that way it shall remain,” Gandhi said.

He noted that a free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country’s institutions and an election cannot be fair without arbiters a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral.

“Nor can an election be free if one party has a complete monopoly on financial resources,” he noted.

Congress leaders at various levels have been appealing to Gandhi to take back his resignation but he has been unrelenting. Some party workers are sitting on a ‘dharna’ outside the Congress headquarters, asking him to continue as president. There have also been several resignations of middle-rung leaders. And two days ago, the chief ministers of Congress-ruled states met Gandhi in an effort to make him change his mind.