New Delhi: Despite the names of veteran leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Mukul Wasnik being thrown up as possible successor to the Congress President's post, when the state party leaders finally sat down to confabulate and propose the names for the post -- it came as no surprise -- Rahul Gandhi again!
For the grand old party, the big moment that appeared to be dawning -- of being able to finally throw away the yoke of dynastic succession of the Gandhi family -- seems to be a non-starter again.
As the Congress Working Committee (CWC) prepared to meet again in the evening after its two-hour meeting in the morning, the five sub-groups formed region-wise to choose a successor to Rahul Gandhi in unison came up with his name.
There was a clamour across all the sub-groups for Rahul Gandhi to be made President again, though he is not keen to take up the responsibility of a party fighting a political downslide.
It is believed that another meeting at 8.30 p.m. will take this forward but in the eventuality that it does not throw anything up, the decision may be postponed.
After Rahul Gandhi resigned as Congress President post the poor showing of the party in the Lok Sabha elections, and stuck to his stand of not going back, the party agreed to go through the process of choosing a person from outside the Gandhi family.
But UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who has been carefully shepherding her son's political rise, is known to have pushed strongly for his name to be proposed. In fact, according to sources, she was unrelenting in making sure no one could look beyond her son.
The fact that the party has been unable to unshackle itself from the psychological hold of the Gandhi dynasty was clear after the morning CWC itself, when the members again appealed to Rahul Gandhi to take back his resignation.
Approval of his resignation is still pending with the CWC, showing the obvious unwillingness of the party to look beyond a Gandhi.
After the CWC meeting in the morning, when Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi said that they did not want to be part of the process to choose the successor to the post of party chief, it appeared that the Congress was finally on its way to getting out of the family shackle-hold.
But with all the five sub-groups, including the one with Rahul Gandhi's sister Priyanka Gandhi on board, proposing his name, the entire process does smack of being a staged operation.
Party sources said that all the sub-groups, including the ones from the south and north, were favouring Rahul Gandhi.
Partry strongman Amarinder Singh, who is known for his independent thinking and way of working, surprisingly did not come for the important CWC meet. While party sources said that those who did not come would be asked for their suggestions, Amarinder Singh had perhaps sensed the way the matter would proceed.
The Congress has been the butt of criticism from the BJP, and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for being unable to look beyond dynasty.
Young Congress leader from Tripura, Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb, tweeted ahead of the evening CWC: "I have spoken on our choice for the Congress President. Someone who we the young India relates to and someone who leads from the front. Someone who fights for the rights even when the mood of the majority in India is for retribution. The name of the President will be announced soon."
Significantly, Rahul Gandhi had insisted that all the state unit leaders come for Saturday's meeting, which made it look as though the party was keen on taking all on board.
Besides Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, the meeting of the CWC was attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior party leaders Priyanka Gandhi, Anand Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Ahmed Patel, P. Chidambaram and several others.
With Rahul Gandhi's resignation not yet accepted, and all the sub groups proposing his name, any chance of a new, fresh and independent thinking person entering the party to reinvigorate it seems to have come to naught.
With the Congress' political theatre of the absurd playing out as it has, the name of a new party chief is likely to be postponed again. Rahul Gandhi may not like to be in the firing line once more.