Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the process of finding a new full-time party president needs to be sped up amid the public perception that it is “adrift and rudderless”. The statement came a day ahead of Sonia Gandhi completing one year as the interim chief of the party.

“I certainly believe we should be clear about our leadership going forward,” Tharoor told PTI. “I welcomed Soniaji’s appointment as interim president last year, but I do believe it’s unfair to her to expect her to carry this burden indefinitely.”

During the interview with PTI, Tharoor also advocated for holding an election for choosing the new party president, adding that it would “certainly have a number of beneficial outcomes for the party”.

Tharoor also said that Rahul Gandhi has the “mettle, capability and aptitude” to lead the party, but added that it was up to the Congress leader to take up the role or not.

Some leaders in the party want Rahul Gandhi to take the helm after he gave it up in view of the Congress conceding defeat in the 2019 General Assembly elections. The demand was made during three different meeting with Sonia Gandhi, including the Congress Working Committee meet.

Tharoor also praised Rahul Gandhi for his vision and foresight. “Through his activities during this lockdown, whether it has been on the issue of the Covid-19 virus or Chinese transgressions, Rahul Gandhi has without a question and almost single-handedly done a remarkable job in holding the present government accountable for its actions and failures,” he said. “I hope he will continue doing that, whether as president or in any other capacity of his choosing.”

He also spoke about the growing perception that the Congress is not a credible Opposition. “We also need to arrest the growing public perception, fuelled by a dismissive media, that the Congress is adrift and rudderless, incapable of taking up the challenge of a credible national Opposition,” the former Union minister said.

Tharoor further defended the party’s secular stance after various party leaders extended support to the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. “Our critics see the Congress party’s distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva as specious,” he said. “They reject its leaders’ arguments that the Hinduism respected by Congress leaders is inclusive and non-judgemental, whereas Hindutva is a political doctrine based on exclusion.”

Party veterans Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh had supported the construction of the temple with the former offering to donate silver bricks for its construction, The New Indian Express reported.