New Delhi: Amid the unease in the Congress against the current drift, Rahul Gandhi has remained firm on not having a member of the party's first family as the working president despite growing voices in support of Priyanka Gandhi to take over. As the joust between an adamant old guard and a defiant young turks club plays out, the Congress remains headless and rudderless, exposed by its inherent contradictions.

The old guard is firmly behind Priyanka Gandhi's elevation despite a section of young leaders backing Rahul Gandhi's plan. Even as Rahul opposes a family member at the helm, her Sonbhadra show has won her many admirers both in the party and outside. The cabal around Sonia Gandhi is insistent that they have a winner on their hands after Priyanka's intervention in UP. This remains unacceptable to Rahul.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor were among the leaders who supported Priyanka Gandhi.

Amarinder Singh said on Monday that Priyanka Gandhi would be a perfect choice, but the decision rests on the Congress Working Committee (CWC). "Priyanka is an excellent choice for the next President who will enjoy all-round support. Agree with Shashi Tharoor that her natural charisma would galvanise the workers and voters alike. Hope the CWC decides on it soon," he said.

Priyanka Gandhi has been active in taking on the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. She has been firing a salvo a day against the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

According to many leaders, the delay in appointing a working president is hurting the party which is rudderless at the moment. The lack of leadership has raised doubts in the minds of people and the Congress lost a crucial southern state of Karnataka because of no clear guidance from the high command to the state unit.

But those backing the move of not having a Gandhi family member as the working president, are of the view that the party should back Rahul Gandhi's stand. This camp sees Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and Madhya Pradesh leader Jyotiaditya Scindia as the best choice to steer the party in the current circumstances. A compromise might see Kharge as working president with two veeps Pilot and Scindia. But Rahul refuses to accept this too.

The name of Karnataka strong man Mallikarjun Kharge has also gained ground because he is well versed in Hindi and can take all the sections along, said sources.

The CWC is now expected to meet next week to end the leadership crisis. The meeting could not take place earlier as Rahul Gandhi was in the US.

After his return, several Congress leaders made a fresh appeal to him to consider his decision, but he conveyed that he was firm on his decision.

Meanwhile, the old guard is trying its best to convince Sonia Gandhi to prop up Priyanka, something that her brother Rahul is vehemently opposed to. Not because he is opposed principally to her, but because he believes that the churning in the Congress should be such that the umbilical cord with the family should be cut unilaterally.

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