Delhi: Even as members of the Congress Working Committee, its highest decision-making body, unanimously voiced "strong sentiment" for his elevation for the first time at a meeting, Rahul Gandhi said on Monday that he was ready to take on any responsibility to fight for the idea of India.
Congress leader and party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, when asked what Rahul had told the CWC members after being urged to take over the reins of the party, "For him, the issue is to fight for the idea of India to ensure that decisive fight, including (protecting) the rights of media is carried to a logical conclusion and any responsibility that helps him realise that objective, he is always willing to more than take on that mantle and fulfil that responsibility."
It was party veteran AK Antony who set the ball rolling at the meeting, which lasted for four hours, when he spoke about the need for Rahul to take over the mantle of the 130-year-old party from her mother and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
All other members, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh followed suit.
"Members unanimously expressed their strong sentiment that accepting the wishes of crores of Congress workers and well-wishers, Rahul Gandhi take over as the president of the Congress party", Antony told reporters while briefing on the deliberations.
Antony said all members including Manmohan Singh, insisted it was "high time" Rahul took over as party chief and the Congress mobilised "all forces" to take on "anti-people and dictatorial" policies of the Modi government.
However, at the briefing, both Antony and Surjewala evaded questions as to when exactly Rahul would take over the reins of the party from his mother and whether it would happen on November 19, the day the AICC has organised a grand celebration on the birth centenary of Indira Gandhi.
"We are very hopeful", a senior party leader said when asked whether the elevation would happen before UP Assembly polls.
"It is for the first time that the CWC is making such a recommendation. We are sure that the Congress President would give it proper care and attention", Antony said replying to a volley of questions on the issue.
Surjewala said senior CWC members would personally meet the party chief as a "follow-up" action regarding their recommendation for Rahul's elevation. After Sonia takes a decision, the CWC would meet again to formally ratify it.
The CWC also decided to seek another extension for a year from the Election Commission for completing its organisational elections. The current extension expires on December 31.
Antony, however, said delaying the organisational polls had no connection with elevating Rahul to the party president's post, apparently hinting at the possibility of Sonia stepping down to clear the way for her son even before the party elections have been wrapped up.
Rahul was appointed party vice-president in January 2013 at Congress's brainstorming session in Jaipur.
The talk about his elevation has been going on for quite some time now. Leaders like Jairam Ramesh had even insisted that Rahul was the "de facto" (in fact) leader who has to become "de jure"
Sonia Gandhi has created a record by being at the helm of the 130-year-old organisation since early 1998 succeeding the late Sitaram Kesri who was ousted by the CWC.
(With PTI inputs)