Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the party must resolve the leadership crisis after Rahul Gandhi had stepped down as president to address the growing perception that they are “adrift”, PTI reported. Last week, the MP had endorsed the comments of party leader Sandeep Dikshit that the Congress Working Committee should hold elections to choose the next leader.

The leadership question has been raised in the middle of speculation that Gandhi could once again be asked to take charge of the party in a few months as interim party chief Sonia Gandhi is reportedly not keen on continuing.

“The immediate cause of worry for many of us is that there appears to be a growing perception in the eyes of the public that we, as a political entity, are adrift,” Tharoor told the news agency.

The Congress leader added that the party is the indispensable national alternative to the “divisive policies” of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. “This is where the compelling case for urgently addressing this perception in the eyes of the public comes from and for that matter, changing the attitude of the media, which is repeatedly writing us off dismissively,” Tharoor said.

He said the party cannot indefinitely depend on Sonia Gandhi as she had just relinquished the job less than two years ago, adding that it is neither fair to her nor to the voters. Rahul Gandhi had stepped down after the Lok Sabha election debacle in May, and former President Sonia Gandhi took over as interim chief on August 10.

“The larger concern and the need of the hour is to find a new president and leadership, and I am confident that if we do so through a participatory, transparent and democratic electoral process internally, the workers will at the end of the day throw their might and energy behind whoever emerges as the winning candidate,” the former Union minister said.

Tharoor also said that the party leaders believe that Rahul Gandhi has the vision to take Congress forward. “This is why most of us were keen for him to continue and stay on in this role after the elections, because while we respected his desire to publicly offer accountability for our defeat, we still felt that there is no one better to ensure the much needed process of revival that is needed for the party,” he said.

He, however, added that it was Gandhi’s personal decision to return as the party chief, and if he does not change his earlier stance, then Congress needs to find an “active and full-time leadership” without delay. “It is of critical importance that we delay no further and work together to move forward,” the MP said. “Resolving the uncertainty about long-term leadership is an indispensable aspect of our process of revival. It must be given foremost priority.”

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi had on Saturday said the party should identify strong leaders.

The Congress’ defeat in Delhi Assembly election has prompted several leaders to speak out. The party, which was in power in the city from 1998 to 2013 under the leadership of Sheila Dikshit, secured less than 5% of the votes polled and registered its worst-ever performance in the national Capital.

On February 14, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had threatened to join a public agitation against his own party’s government in Madhya Pradesh. The threat is seen as an outcome of a personal rivalry between Scindia and the state’s Chief Minister Kamal Nath. The day before, Arjun Modhwadia, a former Gujarat Congress president, sharply criticised the party’s central leadership for being “rarely available to senior state leaders”. Leaders like Ajay Maken and Milind Deora have also engaged in an open spat over the latter praising Aam Aadmi Party.

After the AAP’s victory in the Delhi elections on February 11, Delhi Mahila Congress chief and party spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee had lashed out at former Union minister P Chidambaram for celebrating the defeat Bharatiya Janata Party’s defeat. She asked Chidambaram if the party had outsourced the task of defeating the saffron party to others.

Former Union minister Manish Tewari had argued that the party needs to think about reorienting its economic philosophy which continues to be “fairly socialistic” and bring clarity on the question of secularism and its brand of nationalism.