Rahul Gandhi takes charge of Congress Party

Rahul Gandhi kisses his mother Sonia Gandhi after taking charge as the president of Congress Party in New Delhi on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2017
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Rahul Gandhi takes charge of Congress Party

NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi formally assumed leadership of India’s oldest political party, the Indian National Congress, on Saturday. Gandhi took over from his mother Sonia, who has been head of the party since 1998.
It is the first time in the 70 years of Indian independence that leadership of the 132-year-old party has changed leadership while the incumbent party president is still alive.
Gandhi, 47, became a parliamentarian in 2004 and has been vice president of the party since 2013.
The change in leadership comes at a time when the party — which played a pivotal role in liberating the country from the British in 1947 — is facing the biggest crisis in its history.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, Congress had its worst ever electoral performance, winning just 44 seats out of 545. The party currently rules only six out of 29 states in India.
Since 2013, the young scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family has been the subject of political derision from his opponents and from social media, where many have questioned his emotional and intellectual capability.
But Vinod Sharma, political editor of the Hindustan Times, told Arab News that public opinion of Gandhi is rapidly improving, particularly in light of Congress’s performance in the campaign for the ongoing legislative assembly election in Gujarat.
“The Gujarat election campaign has been a turning point in the career of the Congress leader,” Sharma said. “Those who used to deride him started taking him seriously for the simple reason that he has very candidly addressed issues which touch the lives of the people. His campaign was reassuring, and that has made him widely accepted.
“The challenge for Rahul Gandhi now is to set up a new team and prepare the party for electoral victory,” Sharma added. “The party is in a derelict state in many states and does not have the kind of organization that can win elections. It has to start from grassroots and move upwards.”
In his inaugural address as president of the Congress Party, Gandhi hinted he would pursue a different kind of politics than that being followed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The prime minister is taking us backwards to medieval times, where people are being butchered because of who they are, beaten for what they believe in, and killed for what they eat,” he said.
Sharma told Arab News, “I think his speech was a mix of aggression and conciliation. By talking of dialogue with people, including the members of the BJP, Gandhi is signaling a positive approach and a new kind of politics.”
Priya Dutt, a Congress politician from Mumbai, said, “Everybody is looking at his leadership and wants him to usher in necessary changes in the party to regain lost ground.
“Congress is in the DNA of the people of India and no force can obliterate that and I hope that the new energy that Rahul Gandhi brings into the party will transform the organization,” Dutt told Arab News.
However, BJP member Shina N C, told Arab News that Gandhi’s promotion is simply “a symbol of dynasty.”
“Rahul Gandhi has nothing new to offer the people of India,” Shina said.
Before the 2019 general elections, 16 Indian states, most of them ruled by the BJP, are going to the polls.
The first challenge for Gandhi will be to wrest some of those states from his political rivals, and give momentum to his campaign for the big battle in 2019.


EU hits Venezuela vice president Delcy Rodriguez with sanctions: Statement

Updated 25 June 2018
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EU hits Venezuela vice president Delcy Rodriguez with sanctions: Statement

  • EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday formally approved travel bans and asset freezes
  • In January, Europe added seven senior Venezuelan officials including the interior minister to its sanctions blacklist

LUXEMBOURG: Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez was among 11 senior officials hit Monday by EU sanctions over irregularities in the reelection of President Nicolas Maduro, the bloc announced.
“The persons listed are responsible for human rights violations and for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela. The measures include a travel ban and an asset freeze,” the European Union said after its 28 foreign ministers backed the move at a meeting in Luxembourg.

After the 28 EU states pledged last month to "swiftly" punish Caracas with measures, EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday formally approved travel bans and asset freezes against the 11, who were to be named later in the official announcement.
The EU said last month that Maduro's re-election "lacked any credibility" and did not meet even "minimum international standards" for free and fair polls.
In January, Europe added seven senior Venezuelan officials including the interior minister to its sanctions blacklist, after in November enforcing an embargo on weapons and equipment that could be used for political repression.
Maduro won 68 percent of the vote in the May election, which was boycotted by the opposition and condemned as illegitimate by much of the international community.