Party sources says Sonia remains UPA chairperson and head of the Congress Parliamentary Party
Rahul Gandhi (47) was elected Congress president unopposed on Monday, a much-awaited generational shift in India's oldest political party that comes in the middle of the fiercely contested Gujarat elections. Rahul is likely to take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi on December 16, the party's foundation day.
The spotlight will now be on Sonia who has been the party's longest serving president. She has been leading the Congress for 19 years since 1998. Party sources said Sonia remains UPA chairperson and head of the Congress Parliamentary Party.
While senior leaders feel Sonia could remain the final arbiter, she herself has given enough indications of not coming in way of Rahul's decision making. His elevation also ends speculation over his sister Priyanka Gandhi's leadership role in the party.
The move comes 10 years after Rahul was made AICC general secretary and five years after he became Congress' vice-president.
There will be now greater scrutiny of Rahul's performance. Next year, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh will go to the polls ahead of the 2019 general elections.
All 89 nominations — all in Rahul's favour — were found valid. When the time for nomination withdrawal ended on Monday, Rahul had no other contestant for the post.
Soon after the announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "I congratulate Rahul Ji on his election as Congress President. My best wishes for a fruitful tenure." PM Modi had earlier likened Rahul's imminent elevation as Congress president to "Aurangzeb Raj" or the rule of the 17th century absolutist Mughal emperor.
Party workers gathered outside the AICC office broke into celebration with a slogan "Desh ka neta kaisa ho? Rahul Gandhi jaisa ho" renting the air. The Congress has sought to project the election as democratic to counter the BJP's charges of dynastic politics.
Rahul's elevation comes at a time when the Congress faces an uphill task of reviving its flagging fortunes after having recorded its worst poll performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, wining only 44 seats.
Rahul was campaigning in Gujarat, attacking PM Modi and the BJP, when his party made his election official in Delhi. The elevation concludes a year-long organisational election process in the 132-year-old party.