New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday became first person to complete 15 years as Congress president.

The highlight of 66-year-old Gandhi’s political career came in May 2004 when she successfully led the Congress to power at the centre via the coalition route.

After securing power, she declined prime ministership and instead nominated economist-turned-politician Manmohan Singh to the top executive post in the country.

She took over the reins of the organisation in March 1998 in the wake of the party’s dismal showing in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls that saw the exit of the late Sitaram Kesri from the post.

In 1998, a demoralised and fragmented Congress party was going through a turbulent phase and ruling just a few states. She has so far been unanimously elected to the post barring once when Jitendra Prasada, a senior leader from Uttar Pradesh, had thrown his hat in the ring but failed miserably in the polls in 2000.

Gandhi is currently in the fourth term of the presidentship in which she was elected unopposed in 2010. Her term expires in 2015 in the wake of the changes in the party constitution that now mandates organisational polls after five years instead of three years earlier.

Hailing Gandhi’s feat, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said, “The judicious and wise leadership of the Congress president has not only strengthened the party but rejuvenated the fundamentals of the idea of India."

Senior Congress leader Karan Singh remarked, “When Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of Congress, the condition of the party was not good. People were leaving the party. Soniaji took the responsibility at that time. After that some people left but it did not have any effect on the party."

Singh termed as “miracle" Gandhi leading the party to victory in 2004 with 150 seats in the Lok Sabha and again in 2009 for the second time with 205 seats.

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