Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Wednesday that Rahul Gandhi “was, is and will remain Congress president”. Surjewala made the remarks after senior Congress leaders met informally in New Delhi to discuss the party’s strategy for the Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Maharashtra Assembly elections, PTI reported.

While Assembly polls are due in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand this year, President’s Rule has been imposed in Jammu and Kashmir for a further period of six months.

Gandhi had offered to resign as Congress chief last month after the party’s drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections, and had appeared adamant in his decision. However, the Congress Working Committee had unanimously rejected the resignation.

The Congress had managed to secure just 52 seats in the polls, while the Bharatiya Janata Party swept back to power with 303 seats.

“Rahul ji was, is and will remain the Congress president,” Surjewala told reporters in response to a question. “We have no doubt about it.” Senior party leaders Ahmed Patel, Mallikarjuna Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram, KC Venugopal, Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh and Anand Sharma were present at the meeting.

‘Make Priyanka Gandhi CM candidate’

Meanwhile, Congress workers in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday demanded that General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi be made the chief ministerial candidate for the 2022 Assembly elections, the Hindustan Times reported. They also said that the Congress should fight the polls, as well as 12 Assembly bye-elections on its own.

“Yes, we have requested Priyankaji to be chief ministerial candidate and the Congress will have its own government in the state in 2022,” former Varanasi MP Rajesh Mishra said. “We need to revamp and rebuild the organisation to ensure the party’s presence at all levels and strongly fight the bye-election to 12 Assembly seats.”

As many as 11 out of these seats have fallen vacant after the MLAs were elected as MPs. Meanwhile, BJP MLA from Hamirpur Ashok Chandel has been disqualified.

Congress workers made the demand during a closed-door meeting with Priyanka Gandhi to review the Lok Sabha poll performance, which also included candidates, district and city unit office bearers of the party. The Congress won just one seat – Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli – of the 80 seats in the state during the Lok Sabha elections.

Mishra said Priyanka Gandhi has finalised candidates for six out of the 12 Assembly seats. “These leaders will be made in charges of Assembly constituencies to steer the party’s preparations for the bye-elections,” he added. Another Congress leader said the state party organisation is likely to be overhauled soon.