New Delhi/Chennai: The chorus of voices urging Rahul Gandhi not to quit as Congress president grows louder with leaders of the party and also allies DMK and the RJD on Tuesday saying he remains the "best and competent" person to pull the party out of the crisis after the Lok Sabha poll debacle.
Adding to the voices in the opposition UPA against Gandhi's offer to resign, Tamil superstar Rajinikanth said the Congress chief should stay on as he was a "youngster" and perhaps not got the cooperation of senior party leaders.
DMK chief M K Stalin appealed to Gandhi not to step down, saying he has won the hearts of the people though his party lost the elections while RJD supremo Lalu Prasad termed the offer to quit as "suicidal", asserting it would amount to "falling into the BJP's trap".
Stalin spoke to Gandhi over phone and "appealed to him to give up the idea of resigning as party president", a DMK statement said in Chennai.
After his party's colossal electoral defeat, Gandhi offered to quit on May 25 during a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which unanimously rejected his offer and authorised him to overhaul and restructure the party at all levels. Gandhi is reported to be insisting on his resignation and adamant on having a non-Gandhi installed as the party head.
As senior Congress leaders made a determined bid to convince Gandhi to withdraw his resignation, Shashi Tharoor, who scored an electoral hat-trick by winning from the Thiruvanathapuram Lok Sabha seat, said Gandhi has led the party from the front and still has far more to offer to the party. Congress bagged 52 seats, marginally up from 44 secured in 2014.
Asked about Gandhi's offer to resign and if he was still Congress' best bet in terms of leadership, Tharoor said attempts in the media to pin all the blame for the party's electoral setback on his shoulders are simplistic and unfair.
"While Rahulji has bravely taken full responsibility for the defeat, we all are responsible for what went wrong and we all have a responsibility to ensure the party's revival," Tharoor told PTI in Delhi.
Gandhi will easily beat any other interested candidate by a landslide if the party decides to hold a free and fair election tomorrow for the position of party president, the former union minister claimed.
"That is the kind of place he has built in the hearts of the rank and file of the Congress party and therefore, to my mind, he still undoubtedly remains the best person to help rally the party out of the predicament it finds itself in and help us collectively move forward," Tharoor added.
Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit, a former chief minister, appealed to Gandhi to withdraw his decision, saying the party has bounced back in the past from challenging circumstances to emerge triumphant.
Another Congress leader Pramod Tiwari after meeting Gandhi said, "Instead of resigning, he should seek resignations of leaders at all levels and restructure the party."
M Veerappa Moily, also of the Congress, termed the poll setback as a "passing phase".
Describing Gandhi as the "inspiration" for the party, Moily said it was not appropriate for him to quit his post.
"Just because (Narendra) Modi has won...that is not a criteria to leave the presidentship. After all, ups and downs are common for the Congress party. We have seen them many a time," he told PTI in Hyderabad.
Stating that Gandhi should not insist on his resignation, he said he should "continue to guide the destiny of the party and the nation".
"Apart from legacy, on his own personality, he is the most competent person to lead the party," Moily said.
During his telephonic conversation with Gandhi, Stalin told him though the Congress party has suffered defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, "you have won the hearts of the people".
The DMK-led front in Tamil Nadu won 37 of the 38 Lok Sabha seats. The election in the Vellore parliamentary constituency was cancelled by the EC citing abuse of money power.
Lalu Prasad said Gandhi's offer to step down will not only be suicidal for his party but for all the social and political forces battling against the Sangh Parivar.
Prasad said this in an analysis of the Lok Sabha poll results, published in an English daily, the link of which he shared on his Twitter handle.
Any new president of the Congress would be considered as a puppet of Rahul and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the perception would continue till the next general election, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president said.
The moment someone outside the Gandhi-Nehru family replaces Rahul Gandhi, the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah brigade would paint the new leader as a "puppet" remote-controlled by him and his mother Sonia Gandhi, he said.
Why should Rahul Gandhi give such an opportunity to his political detractors? Prasad asked.
"Rahul's offer to resign suicidal. Opposition parties had the common goal to dislodge BJP but failed to build a national narrative. The result in a particular election can never alter the reality in as diverse and plural a country as India," he said in a tweet.
Asked by reporters in Chennai to comment on Gandhi's offer to resign, Rajnikanth said, "He should not resign."
"I won't say he lacks leadership qualities. The thing is it is very really difficult to handle the Congress party, it is an age-old party where senior-most people are there."
"As a youngster it is difficult to handle the senior-most people. Even I think, my observation is, the senior Congress leaders - they had not cooperated well. They had not worked hard," he said.
There was no need for Gandhi to resign as an opposition party was as important as the ruling one in a democracy, the veteran star added.