New Delhi: The Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting convened Saturday to address the grievances of the party’s leaders vis-à-vis organisational challenges ended up reasserting the Gandhi family’s dominance in the party, in a major snub to its detractors. The CWC meet also became an exercise in enabling the path to Rahul Gandhi’s re-appointment to the role of party president.
Sonia Gandhi, the interim president of the party, began the meeting with her address where she spoke of her contribution to the party in her role — and also took a potshot at those who speak to her “through the media.” She said she appreciates frankness, but “what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC.”
“The entire organisation wants a revival of the Congress. But this requires unity and keeping the party’s interests paramount. Above all, it requires self-control and discipline,” she said.
Congress leaders present at the meeting said that Gandhi turned her gaze to Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad while saying these lines, which came towards the end of her address. Both Sharma and Azad are part of the group of 23, dubbed as ‘G23’, who wrote to Sonia Gandhi in August 2020 demanding a “full time and effective leadership.” Since then the demands have only grown stronger, the most recent being remarks by Kapil Sibal, also a member of the G23. Sibal demanded that a CWC meeting be held to discuss challenges being faced by the party.
But Sonia Gandhi’s sharp opening address set the tone for the rest of the meeting, with Azad even saying that he “never questioned Sonia Gandhi’s leadership” and has faith in her commitment to the party.
This was followed by various leaders through the course of the meeting calling for Rahul Gandhi to take on the post of the party president.
The first one to do so was former defence minister A.K. Antony, who said that the party would want Rahul Gandhi to “take on the role” of the party president. Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot immediately expressed his agreement with Antony’s suggestion saying “this is what we want.”
Subsequently, other leaders including Ambika Soni and Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi also said Rahul Gandhi should take over the post.
After the CWC meet, Soni even told the media that “all leaders of Indian National Congress unanimously want Rahul Gandhi to become party president,” adding whether or not he agrees is his call.
G-23 wasn't even mentioned there. They were present at the meeting. Congress isn't divided into factions, we're united. All leaders of Indian National Congress unanimously want Rahul Gandhi to become party pres. The process (for election) will begin in Sept (2022): Ambika Soni pic.twitter.com/8PfDAxvJ4h
— ANI (@ANI) October 16, 2021
The leaders present at the meeting told ThePrint that addressing all the requests for him to become the next party president, Rahul Gandhi responded saying: “I will consider.”
This was the first time since Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the post of party president after the 2019 Lok Sabha drubbing, that the leader responded positively to the demands of the party for him to resume his responsibilities.
Rahul Gandhi on need for ‘ideological clarity’, Dalit as CM
Organisational general secretary K.C. Venugopal presented the schedule for internal party polls in the meeting, according to which the polls for the party president’s post will be held between 21 August and 20 September 2022.
Punjab CM Channi went a step ahead and said the party “shouldn’t waste one year” and that Gandhi should take on the role of the working president immediately till the next year’s polls.
The leaders present at the meeting said Channi and Rahul Gandhi also enjoyed moments of mutual admiration at the CWC meet, when the latter went on to narrate a story about the CM. Rahul Gandhi said that when he informed Channi that he is the new CM of Punjab in September, the latter broke down.
Rahul Gandhi said that in the past, he has told many leaders that they have been appointed as the CM of various states, but no one has ever broken down. He used this example to shed light on how difficult it is for Dalits to occupy positions of power in the country, and how the “Congress is attempting to change that.”
Rahul Gandhi then gave a speech on the “need to have ideological clarity” for Congress persons.
“Ideological clarity is greater than any office, any leadership post. It lies at the core of the Congress, it is why we are in the Congress,” a leader present at the meeting quoted Rahul Gandhi as saying.
The meeting, which lasted nearly four hours, also saw the general secretaries of the various states slated for polls making presentations on the ongoing preparation.