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New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi, 47, officially took charge as Congress president in a ceremony at the party’s headquarters in New Delhi; his mother Sonia Gandhi has led India’s oldest party for 19 years

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Rahul Gandhi takes over as Congress president
  2. Says, “will always be walking in the shadows of giants”
  3. Attacks PM, says he is “taking us back to medieval times”

Rahul Gandhi took over as Congress president today from his mother Sonia Gandhi, who led India’s oldest party for 19 years. The 47-year-old, who has for years been seen as a reluctant politician but has lately shown signs of shedding that image, took charge in a ceremony on the lawns of the party’s 24 Akbar Road headquarters in Delhi.

Images of Mahatma Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh beamed on a banner behind him as he accepted the takeover certificate after the traditional “Vande Mataram”. Sonia Gandhi and the former prime minister were also on the stage with him.

“Congress took India to 21st century, but the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is taking us back to medieval times,” Rahul Gandhi said, attacking PM Modi and the government in his first speech as Congress president.

“I promise to make the Congress a grand old – and young party,” he told workers, switching between English and Hindi, text and extempore.

 

Sonia Gandhi, in an emotional farewell speech, said: “Rahul is my son, and it would not be right of me to praise him. But I can say this, that in these testing times, he has stood up to dangerous men in power. He has faced challenges with courage and will steer the party in the correct direction.”
Rahul Gandhi is the fifth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to lead the Congress; no one challenged his elevation in the organization election that critics describe as a sham.

Sonia Gandhi, who took over in 1998 and is the party’s longest-serving president, had told THE JAIHIND EXPRESS on Friday: “My role now is to retire.” She also said Rahul had been playing an active role in all decisions in the past three years.

Congress leaders quickly clarified that Sonia Gandhi was retiring only as Congress president, not from politics.

Rahul Gandhi is widely expected to begin his presidency with two new defeats for the Congress, which has been struggling to win elections since it lost power at the centre in 2014.Whatthe Congress calls a “new era” comes two days before election results for two states that exit polls say the party won’t win – Gujarat, where the BJP has ruled for 22 years, and Himachal Pradesh, which the Congress had barely won in the previous election.

“Can’t Speak”: Fireworks Force Sonia Gandhi To Pause Farewell Speech

As Sonia Gandhi began her emotional speech, loud crackers burst by Congress workers almost drowned out her voice. Annoyed, she paused for several moments and refused to speak.

After Rahul Gandhi officially took charge as Congress president today, his mother Sonia Gandhi, who led the party for 19 years, made an emotional farewell speech.

“Today I am addressing you for the last time as Congress president. A new era, new leadership before you,” Sonia Gandhi, 71, began.

But she stopped as loud crackers burst by Congress workers almost drowned out her voice.
Annoyed, Sonia Gandhi paused for several moments and refused to speak until the crackers stopped. An announcement failed to deter the workers. Even Rahul Gandhi came to his mother and appeared to reassure her.

“I have to shout because of this,” appealed Mrs Gandhi, who has been seen to retreat from public life as she has been unwell over the past few years. She finally resumed speaking after a few minutes, though the crackers continued.

Sonia Gandhi Will Contest From Rae Bareli, Not Me: Priyanka Vadra , a mother of two, has managed her mother Sonia Gandhi’s constituency for several years and has also campaigned extensively but confined it to Rae Bareli and neighbouring Amethi, her brother’s constituency.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on the sidelines of her brother Rahul Gandhi’s takeover today as Congress president, told that , her mother Sonia Gandhi would contest the next national election from her constituency Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.

“There is no question of me contesting from Rae Bareli, my mother will be contesting,” Ms Vadra said, responding to speculation that she would debut in politics by contesting the 2019 national election from Rae Bareli, the constituency her mother has represented since 2004.

“My mother is the strongest woman I have seen,” she added, her husband Robert Vadra by her side.
Yesterday, Sonia Gandhi stumped party leaders and triggered questions about her future in politics as she told  “My role now is to retire.” Congress leaders hastily clarified that Sonia Gandhi was not retiring from politics, even if she was stepping down as party chief.

Ms Vadra, a mother of two, has managed her mother’s constituency for several years and has also campaigned extensively but confined it to Rae Bareli and neighbouring Amethi, her brother’s constituency.

Sonia Gandhi has been unwell for the past few years and had vastly reduced her public role, letting her son and number two is-1is-1take the forefront in election campaigns and also party meetings.

Her comment on retiring intensified talk about the formal political plunge of her daughter, who is seen to bear an uncanny likeness to her grandmother and former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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