PTI Photo/Shahbaz Khan
Cong Leaders Repose Faith in Sonia, Rahul's Leadership

Amid strong voices to bring Priyanka Gandhi to the forefront of politics, senior leaders A K Antony and Kamal Nath today reposed faith in the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at the helm of the party.

"They are our topmost leaders. They will remain as our leaders. They are the undisputed leaders. Sonia Gandhi is the final authority in the party. Rahul Gandhi is second in command.

" They are the most accepted leaders in all sections of the party. We will overcome all these difficulties under their leadership," Antony told reporters here.

Reacting to questions on Priyanka Gandhi's leadership role, Antony said she is part of the Congress party.

Speaking separately, Kamal Nath, whose name is doing the rounds for the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, said Sonia Gandhi must take up the post, in the event of Rahul Gandhi is not to taking it up.

"I do not think he (Rahul Gandhi) should be reluctant because he wanted to be really on the forefront of the things in Parliament. Rahul Gandhi would be able to play a very effective role. If he decides not to be there, I think Sonia Gandhi should be the ideal choice," Nath said.

He was replying to a query on whether Rahul Gandhi was reluctant to be become the Leader of Opposition.

Nath, however, offered to take up "any responsibility", as per the wishes of the party president.

Asked about the voices against Rahul within the party after Congress' rout in the Lok Sabha polls, Antony said, "We have a collective responsibility for the defeat. We can not single out somebody. It is meaningless."

Admitting that there are "voices here and there" in the party against the leadership, he said, "That is natural after electoral setback."

Antony said BJP was successful in addressing the aspirations of youth and giving them assurances.

The grand old party could not be written off and it would come back from the current position, he said.

"We are studying why we were rejected in the elections. We will come back. At no point in time, Congress can be ruled out. You cannot write off Congress party. It is the oldest political party in the country," he said.

Antony said the Congress knew that BJP had an upper hand in the Lok Sabha polls.

"But we were not expecting such a debacle in the elections. We are doing our studies and introspection as to what happened for this big defeat," he said.

"After ruling the country continuously for last 10 years, people would have thought it is better to have a change. So we were rejected. We concede defeat. That doesn't mean that we have lost everything. We will definitely comeback under the present leadership itself," he said.

Antony said the Congress does not have any "untouchability" towards Prime Minister elect Narendra Modi.

"He is India's Prime Minister. Parties... Government are separate. Government of India is the government of all of us. The Congress has offered constructive support to the government," said Antony, who is the Defence Minister in the outgoing government.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that the political leadership of the party should also lead the Congress in Parliament.

"The logic is that there should be no division of authority, I think you will find a very united Congress Parliamentary Party at work in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha," he said.

Asked whether Congress president Sonia Gandhi must lead the party in Parliament, he said, "This is my personal view. If she finds it absolutely impossible for compelling reasons, then the vice president of the party is second in line."

In a TV interview, Kamal Nath came in support of Milind Deora, who had questioned the role of Rahul Gandhi's advisors as well as "those who take the advice".

"Milind Deora has said lot of right things. I agree to most of them and there should be people, who have electoral experience," he added.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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