Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar on Sunday said that the party would survive if a non-Gandhi is elected as its chief, provided the Gandhi family remains active in the organisation. His comments come at a time when Rahul Gandhi has decided to hang up his boots following the poor performance of the party in the Lok Sabha polls.

In an interview with PTI, Aiyar, while pointing out that Rahul’s wishes must be respected, also claimed that the objective of the BJP is to have a “Gandhi-mukt Congress” which would in turn lead to a “Congress-mukt Bharat”.

“I am sure we can survive if we have to without a Nehru-Gandhi as the titular head of the party, provided the Nehru-Gandhis remain active in the party and can help resolve a crisis in case serious differences arise,” Aiyar told PTI.

Aiyar said Rahul has given the party about a month to find a replacement though the feeling in the party is overwhelmingly in favour of the latter staying on. The former Union minister, however, emphasised that instead of speculating, media must wait for the “deadline” to know whether a replacement has been found or Rahul gets persuaded to remain Congress chief.

“I don’t think it is a matter of personalities. I know it is the objective of the BJP to have a Gandhi-mukt Congress so as to have a Congress-mukt Bharat. I don’t think we should be falling into the trap of thinking that they have discovered something that we are not able to discover,” Aiyar said.

“If you simply cut off the head then the chicken may start fluttering as it does in the animal kingdom,” the 78-year-old leader said when asked if organisational overhaul at the top was needed.

Aiyar cited several instances in the history of the party when people from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family were presidents of the party, from UN Dhebar to Brahmananda Reddy. The same model could even now be adopted, he said.

“Since we know that Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi is the head of the parliamentary party and Mr (Rahul) Gandhi is part and parcel of our parliamentary party, I have every confidence that whether with Mr Rahul Gandhi at the helm or somebody else, the party will fight back and resume in the fullness of time its position as the natural leader of what I call the Idea of India Movement,” he said.

Rahul had offered to quit as the party chief during the May 25 meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which was called to analyse the party’s poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, in which it managed to win just 52 seats.

The CWC had unanimously rejected his offer to quit but Gandhi has been apparently firm on his stand.