Rahul Gandhi Cong’s new prez, says BJP crushes voices: Top 10 developments

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Rahul Gandhi took charge as the Congress party’s president on Saturday and was handed the certificate for taking over in the presence of his mother Sonia Gandhi, who steps down from the post with her son’s elevation, and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Now that Sonia Gandhi is handing over the reins of the party to Rahul, we salute her for uniting the leadership, something that she has been doing for 19 years, Singh said after Rahul’s elevation, adding that Rahul brings a new sense of dedication and commitment (as party president). “I am sure the party will scale new heights of glory,” the former prime minister was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Rahul, who has often been seen as a reluctant politician, was named the chief-to-be on Monday after no one else from his party challenged him in the internal election. Ahead of the ceremony, Congress leader Sachin Pilot said the party president-elect had always been a unanimous choice of the lakhs of workers across India and would infuse a new energy into the party.

Take a walk down memory lane with us as we revisit Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s journey in the Congress Party and say #ThankYouSoniaGandhi for her years of guidance, service and commitment to the Party and the country. #CongressPresidentRahulGandhi pic.twitter.com/NMN7Hruvzd

— Congress (@INCIndia) December 16, 2017

“It is a momentous occasion for the Congress party. For 19 years, Sonia Gandhi has led the Congress. Rahul Gandhi has been a unanimous choice of the lakhs of workers across India who have elected him as the president of the party. It’s a matter of great joy. Rahul Gandhi has a lot of challenges ahead of him. He is an honest person. He allows space for discussion with humility. His becoming the president will infuse a new energy into the Congress party,” Pilot said.

Top 10 developments:

1. Rahul takes over

Rahul, the erstwhile Congress vice-president, on Saturday succeeded his mother Sonia Gandhi to the top party post. He was elected unopposed. Rahul was elevated as the party’s vice-president in January 2013 and has since then, operated as the party’s Number 2. Sonia Gandhi, 70, the party’s longest-serving chief, has been keeping unwell in recent years and has scaled back her public engagements, pushing Rahul to the fore.

#WATCH live from AICC: Rahul Gandhi takes charge as the President of Congress party in Delhi. https://t.co/3N6Ot5Prpt

— ANI (@ANI) December 16, 2017

2. Manmohan says Rahul taking over amid a time of ‘disturbing trends’

Singh said Rahul Gandhi was taking over as the new Congress President amid “disturbing trends” as “politics of fear” was taking over the “politics of hope” in India. “Rahulji is taking over as President of our party at a time when there are certain disturbing trends visible in our politics,” Manmohan Singh told a gathering at the Congress Headquarters after Rahul Gandhi was formally declared the head of the country’s oldest party.

He noted that a “distinguished academician” has pointed out that “there are dangers that politics of fear will take over the politics of hope” in the country. “Rahulji, we depend upon you to transform and sustain politics of hope,” the Congress leader said.

He said Rahul Gandhi had been trained for a long period and had already looked after many activities of the Congress for many years now. “Rahulji brings in a new sense of dedication and commitment, a new sense of leadership with courage and humility.”

3. Gandhi says BJP like his brothers and sisters

After taking over the party’s top post, the Gandhi scion said that the leaders and members of the BJP were like his brothers and sisters even though he did not agree with their politics or views.

“We consider the BJP as our brothers and sisters, but we do not agree with them. They (BJP) crush voices but we allow them to speak… They defame, we respect and defend,” Gandhi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

4. Celebration before Rahul’s coronation

A day ahead of his formal elevation as the Congress president, the Youth Congress office in New Delhi was lit up. The celebrations began as party workers danced outside the office with drum rolls. The Congress office in Lucknow was also decorated with lights. The party is also set to organise a grand celebration in the national capital.

Celebrations took place outside the All India Congress Committee office in Delhi as the Gandhi scion took charge as Congress president, news agency ANI reported.

Celebration outside AICC in Delhi as Rahul Gandhi takes charge as Congress President. pic.twitter.com/OqvLFxjMUo

— ANI (@ANI) December 16, 2017

5. Rahul Gandhi’s makeover

In a TV interview days before his coronation, Rahul Gandhi maintained he has not undergone any ‘makeover’ and accused the BJP of tarnishing his image. “There is no makeover; the truth of Rahul Gandhi was being distorted by BJP workers. I speak the truth and that truth is coming out,” the Gandhi scion said.

Asked about the comments on the Nehru-Gandhi family, Rahul said he did not feel any hatred for the Prime Minister, adding that Modi has helped him the most.

“Modiji has helped me the most… How can I hate him,” Rahul Gandhi said. “If you look at religion and the history of the nation, love has to be the response to hatred. There is zero emotion of anger and hatred in me,” he said in response to a question on the comments made on the Nehru-Gandhi family.

6. Congress President Sonia Gandhi announces retirement

Sonia Gandhi was on Friday asked by the media in Parliament about her future role. “My role is to retire,” she said. Her comments were interpreted to mean that Sonia Gandhi plans to retire from public life. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala requested the media “to not rely upon innuendos”. Surjewala also tweeted: “Sonia Gandhi has retired as president of the Indian National Congress and not from politics. Her blessings, wisdom and innate commitment to the Congress ideology shall always be our guiding light.”

7. ‘Congress only party that will challenge BJP nationally in 2019’

Congress leader Sachin Pilot said that in the 2019 Assembly elections, the Congress would remain the only party to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nationally, which it even now it is.

“In 2019 elections, the only party to challenge the BJP nationally is and will remain the Congress party. I am very confident that he (Rahul Gandhi) will lead the party with a lot of energy and be able to overcome the challenges,” he said.

8. EC issues notice to Rahul Gandhi for TV interview

The Election Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi asking why action should not be taken against him for violating the Representation of the People Act, hours after several TV channels aired his interview on Gujarat polls.

Taking action on a complaint from the BJP’s Gujarat unit, the Commission instructed Gandhi to furnish his response by 5 p.m. on December 18. The notice was issued for “prima facie” violation of Section 126(1) (b) of the Act.

ALSO READ: Rahul interview: Channels face EC ire

9. Congress attacks Modi for violating model code of conduct during Gujarat polls

The Congress, in turn, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of misusing the FICCI platform on Wednesday. Alleging double standards, party communications in charge Randeep Surjewala said while FIR was being registered against TV channels for showing Gandhi’s interview, why no such action was being taken against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP president Amit Shah on the same ground.

He said Jaitley had released the party manifesto in Ahmedabad on December 8 while PM Modi held four public meetings on December 9 and Shah addressed a press conference in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. He said a delegation led by Congress leader Ashok Gehlot would visit the EC office late on Wednesday evening.

ALSO READ: Gujarat polls: SC refuses Cong plea to verify VVPAT slips with EVM votes

10) Rahul takes over as poll of exit polls predicts Congress defeat in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh

PM Modi’s ruling BJP will sweep the election in his home state of Gujarat, surveys showed on Thursday, shaking off the most serious challenge yet from a combined Opposition. The election for a new state Assembly in Gujarat is seen as a litmus test for Modi ahead of a national election in 2019. Voting closed on Thursday. A win would help him dismiss critics who said the ruling BJP’s support base was eroding after last year’s shock move to ban high-value currency notes in the fight against graft, and poor implementation of a national sales tax this year hit businesses.

Three separate television exit polls at the close of the final round of voting on Thursday showed the BJP winning more than 100 seats in the 182-member state house, well clear of the half-way mark of 92 required to rule. Congress will win 70-74 seats, the polls showed, better than in the past but not enough to oust the BJP from power. Another exit poll, conducted by a Today’s Chanakya group, gave the BJP a two-thirds victory.

The actual votes will be counted on Monday and exit polls and other surveys have often gone wrong. The Congress party said it was too quick to call the election based on exit polls.

Separate exit polls released for state polls held in Himachal Pradesh also showed BJP emerging as the winner.