Bharatiya Janata Party’s Assam MLA Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday said the party wished to see Rahul Gandhi as the Congress President for “next 50 years” as it would help them, ANI reported. But this would not benefit the democracy as it needs a “vibrant opposition”, he added.

“In Parliament, there should be space for the opposition, so if there is no Rahul Gandhi, then there is a possibility of a vibrant opposition,” Sarma, who joined the BJP in 2015 after a two decade-long stint with the Congress, said. “But if I look from BJP’s point of view and not India’s, then we wish that Rahul Gandhi continues as Congress President for the next 50 years.”

On May 23, after the Lok Sabha election results were announced, Sarma had said Gandhi was no longer fit to be in politics and called on the Opposition party to give him a “decent retirement”. Gandhi was “thrust on the Congress” by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, he had said.

Sarma was the chairman of the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance. He oversaw the campaign in the northeastern states for the Lok Sabha elections. The NDA registered one of its best performances in the northeast as BJP had won 14 seats and its allies won four, taking the total count to 18 seats out of 25 Lok Sabha constituencies.

At the Congress Working Committee meeting held on May 25, Gandhi had offered to resign as the party president, which was rejected by the committee. Two days later, reports said that he had refused to withdraw his resignation and urged party colleagues to look for a new chief.

The Congress managed to win only 52 Lok Sabha seats compared to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tally of 303 constituencies.