Sonia Gandhi with Rajiv Gandhi Credit: File image

New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi will be the new Congress interim president, the party’s top decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee, revealed this on Saturday after a meeting to choose her son Rahul Gandhi’s successor as the party chief.

She returned to the helm after almost 20 months, after Rahul Gandhi refused to reconsider his resignation.

Rahul had announced his decision to quit the party’s top post in May after its disastrous performance in the Lok Sabha election. On Saturday morning, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi had excused themselves from the zonal body meetings, saying they cannot be part of the selection process.

“Sonia Gandhi has the experience and from time to time, we have turned towards her for guidance, so it was only appropriate that she takes over,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala at a press conference after the meeting.

“We will have a full-time president after our internal elections,” a party leader added.

Born in a small village near Vicenza, Italy, Sonia Gandhi was raised in a Roman Catholic family. After completing her primary education at local schools, she moved for her higher education to Cambridge, England, where she met Rajiv Gandhi, and later married him in 1968.

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Sonia took up Indian citizenship and began living with her mother-in-law, the then-Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, at the latter’s New Delhi residence. Sonia, however, kept away from the public sphere, even during the years of her husband’s premiership, as per reports.

Following her husband’s assassination, Gandhi was invited by Congress leaders to lead the party, but she declined. She agreed to join politics in 1997 after much pleading from the party; the following year, she was nominated for party president, and elected over Jitendra Prasada.

Under her leadership, the Congress went on to form the government post the 2004 elections in coalition with other centre-left political parties. Gandhi has since been credited for being instrumental in formulating the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which was re-elected to power in 2009. Gandhi declined the premiership following the 2004 victory; she instead led the ruling alliance and the National Advisory Council.

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