The leadership suspense of the Congress party ended on Saturday, with Rahul Gandhi (50) expressing willingness to return as the party president, the post he quit in July last year after serving for 20 months, owning up responsibility for the party defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.
He himself broke the uncertainty at a 7-hour long meeting convened by his mother and interim president Sonia Gandhi (74) on the lawns of her 10 Janpath residence here with some dissenters and senior leaders when he said, "I am prepared to whatever role you all give to me."
Interim AICC treasurer Pawan Bansal said his remark came when many participants told Sonia that the leadership issue should be resolved at the earliest. He was greeted with applause by all present including the rebels, who were among 23 who wrote to Sonia earlier this year for an overhaul of the party.
When members raised the issue of the leadership uncertainty, Sonia said the election process is already in progress and she is looking forward to giving the party reigns to a new leader in January. Bansal said Rahul also agreed that "better communication" was needed and the party needed to strengthen itself at the booth level.
His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, also talked about rebuilding the organization and "taking care of grassroots workers."
Congress leaders said "no one was critical of Rahul Gandhi" at the meeting and the rebels "supported him. None of the rebels made the issue of Rahul taking decisions on behalf of Sonia Gandhi.
The consensus also emerged to hold a brain-storming session like those held at Panchmarhi hill station in Madhya Pradesh and in Shimla. Sonia started the meeting with a conciliatory note that differences are natural in the Congress being a big family, but nobody should treat each other as enemies as the party can be strengthened only if all work together.
The decision was taken that Sonia Gandhi should hold similar meetings over the next one week with the party general secretaries and other senior leaders before getting the ball rolling for revamp of the party, with an AICC plenary session probably in February.
Speaking to the media after a five-hour-long meeting, Bansal said the leaders said the party needs the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
"Everyone said that the party needs Rahul Gandhi's leadership and we should not care for those who want to divert attention from the agenda. A total of 19 leaders including Sonia Gandhi were present in the meeting. Sonia Gandhi told Congress like a family and said that we will work together as a family," Bansal said.
"Discussions were held on a positive note at the meeting where leaders talked about how to strengthen the party at all levels. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said we all are one big family and we all should work to strengthen the party. Rahul Gandhi also talked about strengthening the party," he said.
Sources said a number of issues were discussed at the meeting, where the 'letter-writers' expressed the view that they were neither "dissenters" nor "rebels". They said they had only raised issues in the party's interest to strengthen it, the sources said. —With inputs from Agencies