I will retire now, says Sonia Gandhi a day before Rahul becomes Congress chief

Outgoing Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday told mediapersons ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament that she will now retire from politics.

This comes a day before her son Rahul Gandhi is slated to officially take over as the Congress president.

The Congress president made the remark while responding to a question on Rahul Gandhi becoming the party chief.

Sonia Gandhi, who turned 71 on December 9, remained Congress president for 19 years, and was even termed as “super prime minister” by the opposition owing to her influence on the previous UPA government led by former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

After her husband Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991, Sonia refused to take over and the party settled on the choice of PV Narasimha Rao, who became the leader and subsequently PM.

Later, the Congress lost the 1996 elections and several senior leaders such as Madhavrao Sindhia, Rajesh Pilot, Narayan Dutt Tiwari, Arjun Singh, P Chidambaram and Jayanthi Natarajan revolted openly against the then party president, Sitaram Kesri.

Following this, in an effort to revive the party’s sagging fortunes, Sonia joined the Congress as a primary member in the Calcutta Plenary Session in 1997 and became party chief in 1998.

At that time, a fragmented Congress had just lost the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Mizoram and Nagaland. It had 141 members in the Lok Sabha.

In May 1999, three senior leaders of the party, Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma, and Tariq Anwar challenged her right to try to become India’s PM citing her foreign origins.

Following this, Sonia offered to resign as party leader. This resulted in an outpouring of support and the expulsion of the three rebels from the party. They went on to form the Nationalist Congress Party.

She contested Lok Sabha elections from Bellary, Karnataka and Amethi, Uttar Pradesh in 1999 and won both seats. However, Sonia chose to represent Amethi.

In Bellary, she had defeated BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj.


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