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Sonia Gandhi completes 15-year as Congress president Last Updated : 14 Mar 2013 09:48:13 AM IST Sonia Gandhi completes 15 years as Congress president
Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday completed an unprecedented 15 years as Congress president, a feat unparallelled in the annals of the 127-year-old organisation.
Even Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi did not have the privilege of holding the post for 10 years at a stretch.Rajiv Gandhi served as prime minister in the 1980s, but was assassinated in 1991. Almost a decade after her husband's death, Sonia Gandhi reluctantly followed in her famous family's footsteps by entering politics.
She took over the reins of the organisation in March 1998 in the wake of the party's dismal showing in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls that saw the exit of the late Sitaram Kesri from the post.
In 1998, a demoralised and fragmented Congress party was going through a turbulent phase and ruling just a few states.Although she had no political experience, Gandhi threw herself into the 1998 legislative campaign.The Congress party was re-energized and Gandhi emerged as a political power in her own right. Congress made a good showing in the 1998 elections, gaining twenty-eight seats in Parliament.
She has so far been unanimously elected to the post barring once when Jitendra Prasada, a senior leader from Uttar Pradesh, had thrown his hat in the ring but failed miserably in the polls in 2000.
The highpoint of 66-year-old Gandhi's political career came in May 2004 when she successfully led the Congress to power at the Centre via the coalition route.
Sonia Gandhi delivered a lecture at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands on Saturday, June 9,2007 in which she explained her relation with her mother-in-law and former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, she said, “Over the years we drew closer together. She shared her experiences about her personal life, her loneliness as a child with her mother ailing and her father imprisoned, of her involvement from her childhood in the freedom movement, of the values that took shape in those formative years. I watched her deal with crises and triumphs. I saw her interact with the common man and with heads of state, with allies and with opponents. She faced adulation and acclaim as well as criticism, slander, rejection and imprisonment. "
On her joining politics, Sonia Gandhi said, “I was elected President of the Congress Party in 1998 when it was in Opposition. This gave me an opportunity to travel to all corners of the country. I found the people at large responded to me spontaneously. Intuitively, they seemed to understand that, like them, I too valued their traditions, their philosophy and their way of life. This seemed to build a bond between us, especially with the poor who welcomed me and opened their hearts without hesitation."
After securing power, she declined prime ministership and instead nominated economist-turned-politician Manmohan Singh to the top executive post in the country.
In 1992 Gandhi published a book called Rajiv, which offered an unexpected glimpse into the life she shared with her husband. In 1994 she went into more detail when she published Rajiv's World.
Gandhi is currently in the fourth term of the Presidentship in which she was elected unopposed in 2010. Her term expires in 2015 in the wake of the changes in the party constitution that now mandates organisational polls after five years instead of three years earlier.
Hailing Gandhi's feat, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said, "The judicious and wise leadership of the Congress President has not only strengthened the party but rejuvenated the fundamentals of the idea of India." Senior Congress leader Karan Singh remarked, "When Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of Congress, the condition of the party was not good. People were leaving the party. Soniaji took the responsibility at that time. After that some people left but it did not have any effect on the party."
Singh termed as "miracle" Gandhi leading the party to victory in 2004 with 150 seats in the Lok Sabha and again in 2009 for the second time with 205 seats. "I congratulate her for completing 15 years and I think no other Congress president has completed 15 years term," he said.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde also lauded Gandhi's feat saying her leadership has strengthened the organisation. "We Congress leaders from across the nation congratulate her... India has got a great leadership provided by her," he said.
List of Congress presidents and their tenure from 1929 to 1998
Jawaharlal Nehru 1929 & 30
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel 1931
Madan Mohan Malaviya 1932-33
Nellie Sengupta 1933
Rajendra Prasad 1934 & 35
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 1936-37
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose 1938-39
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad 1940-46
Acharya J B Kripalani 1947
Pattabhi Sitaraimayya 1948 & 49
Purushottam Das Tandon 1950
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 1951-54
U N Dhebar 1955-59
Indira Gandhi 1959
Source: IANS, Other Agencies, Staff Reporters
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