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Sonia Gandhi will remain as Congress party's interim president for now and the new chief will be elected within next six months, the party decided on Monday.

This decision was taken at the eventful Congress Working Committee meeting that concluded after seven hours on Monday.

Congress Working Committee urged Sonia Gandhi to continue as interim party chief and to bring changes to strengthen organisation, PTI quoted sources.

"Members expressed faith in Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi & urged her to continue leading the party and she agreed. Next meeting will be called soon, probably within next six months, to elect new chief. Till then, Sonia Gandhi agreed to remain interim president," said P.L. Punia, a member of Congress Working Committee.

"Madam (Sonia Gandhi) has to continue and the election will take place as soon as possible which is the unanimous decision of the working committee," Congress leader and CWC member, K.H. Muniyappa told ANI.

Sonia Gandhi had offered to step down as interim president following a letter by more than 20 leaders demanding an "active, full-time and visible" president.

Though a large section of the leaders backed Sonia Gandhi at the even-hour virtual meeting of the Congress’ highest decision making body to discuss the pivotal leadership issue, the faultlines were clear and appeared to deepen at some points as the day progressed.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh led the demand for Sonia Gandhi continuing as Congress president and leader after leader echoed him while attacking the letter writers, particularly Ghulam Nabi Azad, the senior-most signatory and a CWC member, sources said.

P Chidambaram suggested the holding of a virtual AICC session to start the process of holding elections for a new party chief.

However, the stage seems set for the CWC endorsing Sonia Gandhi continuation as party chief, with the letter writers isolated and under attack from several leaders. The meeting was attended by 48 leaders.

Former president Rahul Gandhi, it is learnt, launched a sharp attack against the signatories, questioning their timing as well as the fact they went public with their grievances. He also rued the fact that the letter – seeking sweeping changes to the party organisation and elections to the CWC -- was written when Sonia Gandhi was in hospital and the party was battling a political crisis in Rajasthan.

He said Sonia Gandhi had accepted charge as party president only after the CWC last year urged her to take the responsibility.

"It is the CWC and not the media, where we voice our grievances and discuss issues," sources quoted Rahul Gandhi as telling the CWC members.

They also said Rahul insinuated that the letter would help the BJP.

Earlier in the day, Kapil Sibal, senior leader and one of the signatories of the letter, created a flutter when he hit out at Rahul Gandhi on Twitter for a purported remark on the BJP.

Sibal, who is not a part of the CWC, withdrew his tweet a little later.

"Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him. I therefore withdraw my tweet," he said on Twitter.

The Congress also denied that Rahul Gandhi had accused any party leader of "colluding with the BJP".

With PTI inputs

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