NEW DELHI: Sonia Gandhi will continue as the interim president of Congress until a fresh All India Congress Committee (AICC) election is held and a new party chief gets selected, sources said on Monday (August 24). Congress leader PL Punia told ANI that the next meeting would be called soon, probably within six months to elect new president. He added that party members expressed faith in Sonia as well as Rahul Gandhi and urged her to continue leading party to which she agreed

The seven-hour-long Congress Working Committee meeting, which was called on Monday amid divisions in the party over the leadership issue, meanwhile has come to an end, sources said.   

“Sonia Gandhi has to continue and the election will take place as soon as possible which is the unanimous decision of the working committee. There is no different opinion on leadership and even Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Wasnik and Anand Sharma have given in writing that there is no dispute on leadership,” Congress leader and CWC member, KH Muniyappa told ANI. 

Earlier in the day, at the CWC meet, Sonia had offered to quit as the Congress interm president, asking to initiate the process for selecting a new party chief, sources said. In her opening remarks at the meeting, called in the wake of a section of leaders seeking a ‘full time and visible’ Congress president, Sonia made the offer to quit saying she had given a detailed reply on the issue to AICC general secretary K C Venugopal. 

Sources said Sonia Gandhi referred to Azad and others twice during her brief address and the issues raised by them. She also handed over a detailed reply to Venugopal, who read out its contents at the CWC meeting in which Gandhi sought to be relieved from the post.

Former PM Manmohan Singh, who spoke after Sonia Gandhi, urged her to continue, so did former Defence Minister AK Antony, with both the veterans criticising the letter by some party leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, who are a part of the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body.

The party is divided on the leadership matter with a section demanding collective leadership and another reposing faith in the Gandhi family.

A group of 23 party leaders wrote a letter to Sonia earlier this month seeking an overhaul of the organisation. The letter, however, was criticised by Rahul and few other party leaders. Sources added that Rahul in his speech questioned the timing of the letter, signed by 23 Congress leaders, and sent to Sonia while she was at Delhi’s Gangaram hospital and under medication. “It is the CWC and not the media where we put out our thoughts and discuss,” he is learnt to have said at the meeting, the sources said.

On the other hand, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Bhupel demanded the CWC to annoint Rahul as the full-time party president. 

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