Amarinder Singh said he was of the view that Rahul Gandhi was capable of taking over as Congress president. Photograph: (AFP)
The new Congress president should be appointed through consensus and not election as it helps to bind the party and Rahul Gandhi is certainly up to it, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said today.
He also said that it was up to Sonia Gandhi whether she will continue as party chief for another term and the party will be happy if she decides so.
Amarinder, however, favoured projection of regional leaders in Congress and making them the party's face in each state ahead of assembly elections.
"Elections are always bitter and consensus keeps the party together. There should be a consensus on the party president.
"You don't have any bad blood. It is all happening in a happy way," he told PTI in an interview. The organisational election process within the Congress party is underway and the new party chief has to be elected by October 15.
On Sonia Gandhi, he said it will be entirely her call on whether to continue for another term till 2019.
"She has worked very hard. If she wants to stay, I think the party will be too happy. If she wants to go, I think Rahul is in a position to take over... . As party Vice President, I have been dealing with him for 2-3 years, I find that he is certainly up to it," he said.
He, however, said his impression is that she feels she has done enough.
She has not had time off for the last 20 years, which is a long time, ever since she took over as party chief in 1997, Amarinder said.
Asked whether he prefers someone other that a member of the Gandhi family to lead the party, he said traditionally the Congress has been headed by a member of the Nehru Gandhi family.
From Motilal Nehru to Jawaharlal Nehru and then Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, except for some leaders in between, he said.
"I am going to vote for Rahul. Who else do we have," he said.
Asked what is holding Rahul back from taking over, the Punjab leader said he is already going through the process.
"I think one must not write off Rahul. People are trying to write him off. They are trying to fob him off, calling him childish names. That is unnecessary. I think he is very perceptive and very decisive," he said.
On promoting regional talent within the party, Amarinder said every state has regional leaders unlike in the past and the Congress has to project them ahead of elections, as people these days vote for a face.
He said all states have regional parties and regional leaders and everyone knows if they win, who will be the chief minister. This was not the case earlier when it was Jan Sangh or Congress.
"So you should have to have a face. Congress must come down to this point. If Himachal is tomorrow, then who is the face. This is very important today," he said and cited his own case.
Singh was named the CM candidate by the party ahead of the Punjab assembly election, in a departure from tradition.
"You must project a leader in advance. Look at me, the whole campaign was focused on me. Projection is important," he said, adding that the Congress has no dearth of young leaders in every state and cited some names too.
"You cannot write off Congress like this. I am sure other states must be having leaders also," he said.
On the current state of affairs in the Congress, which has lost one election after another except Punjab, the state chief minister said he is not worried about the situation as the country moved in a cycle, which will soon reverse.
"Today there may be an upswing for BJP, but who knows two years hence," he said.
Amarinder said India has so many problems and people are hoping for somebody who does better and if one does not deliver, they choose the other the next time.
He also cited Arvind Kejriwala's example, whose party was rejected by voters in the civic polls in Delhi.
"You see Mr Kejriwal being pushed out. Because they feel he has not delivered. So delivery is important," he said.
Having spent around five decades in politics, the Punjab chief minister said he has seen ups and downs including the time when the Congress "won only one state and one seat in the whole of North India of Karan Singh".
"This was when Indira Gandhi lost, Sanjay Gandhi and I also lost. Then suddenly in two years we bounced back again. I am not worried about this. This is a cycle that happens in this country," he said, recollecting times when Indira Gandhi was at the helm.
Amarinder, who also holds the post of Punjab Congress chief, has also asked Rahul Gandhi to relieve him from the party post saying he will not be able to do justice to the job.