New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi is adamant that he will not withdraw his resignation even as he remains furious with the old guard - Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and P Chidambaram - who were busy pushing their children in the recently-concluded hustings and "not working for the party per se".
However, better counsel is now prevailing where he has accepted that he will lead the Congress party in the Lok Sabha where its strength, from a paltry 44, has gone up to 52, an increase of a mere eight MPs. Sonia Gandhi will remain UPA chairperson and the Nehru-Gandhi family/dynasty will distance itself from day-to-day affairs of the party.
An interim working president with two or more working vice presidents in a loosely-formed presidium will run the party operations and plan elections and campaigns.
AICC general secretary K C Venugopal may emerge as interim president while Prithviraj Chauhan could be one of the vice-presidents.
Given that the Congress has 23 MPs from the south, it appears that a south Indian will helm the party for the time being. Or alternatively, cut the umbilical cord with the past and appoint Jyotiraditya Scindia as the working president and have the youth brigade around him to turn the party's fortunes around.
The recent rout which has seen the Congress draw a blank in 16 states, two Union Territories and as many as eight Chief Ministers and the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha losing is its darkest chapter yet. In the ensuing vacuum, treasurer Ahmed Patel, once political secretary to Sonia Gandhi, is back holding the reins.
Congress had fielded 421 candidates across the country but only 52 of them got elected marking the second dismal performance by the party in the second successive general elections.
The Congress won the maximum number of 15 seats in Kerala, followed by eight each in Punjab and Tamil Nadu each. In many states and Union Territories, it could not even open its account. Among the party leaders who lost were four members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision-making body of the party.
But the Young Turks are determined to dislodge the old guard. Sachin Pilot and Scindia are in the forefront to back Rahul Gandhi in his "clean-up" attempt. Sources said that in his outburst at the CWC meeting after the Lok Sabha defeat, Gandhi had selectively targeted the old guard. The Young Turks, all of whom had tasted defeat, were spared.
In fact, Pilot and Scindia, being seen as the faces that may replace Gandhi, did not perform up to expectations. The Congress lost all the seats in Rajasthan for the second time in row, while in Madhya Pradesh, Scindia lost his own election.
But the Young Turks feel that this was the time to take control of the party. They have started raising their voice highlighting what went wrong in Lok Sabha elections. South Mumbai candidate Milind Deora spoke up saying there was no media and communication strategy of the party in Mumbai. Pilot has also spoken about the problems affecting the party as he has asked for a mass contact programme with the people.
Some party workers sat on a hunger strike outside Rahul's house to convince him against quitting.
The Congress workers were detained by the police and let off subsequently.
Delhi Congress leader Vijay Jatan and some workers, who sat on a hunger strike outside Gandhi's Tughlaq Lane residence, said their demand was that the latter should take his resignation back because the party needed his leadership.