New Delhi: After being cornered during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting Monday for their “ill-timed letter”, the signatories have decided to lay low for now and are hopeful their concerns have been heard and will be addressed at a later stage, ThePrint has learnt.
Two senior leaders of the Congress, who were signatories on the letter that had asked for a “full time and effective leadership”, said the timing and leak of the letter to the media had become the focal point in the CWC meeting, and not the contents of it.
“It was a really good opportunity to discuss those issues, but it entirely became about Gandhis versus non-Gandhis, and about the timing of the letter,” said one of the signatories.
“But we are hopeful the leadership has taken cognisance of these concerns and it will be taken up in the near future,” the signatory added.
In a meeting late Monday evening, some signatories of the letter — Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor — met at senior leader Gulam Nabi Azad’s residence. Sources said this meeting was called on “to catch up on the deliberations that took place at the CWC”.
However, not all were hopeful that their letter would lead to any major change.
“To be frank, I wasn’t very hopeful even while signing that letter. But I did it because it’s important to raise these issues. But I am almost certain nothing will come out of it, especially after yesterday’s meeting,” a third signatory said.
At least 20 senior Congress leaders, including former chief ministers and Union ministers, and sitting MPs and CWC members, had written to interim chief Sonia Gandhi a fortnight ago.
Party veterans slam ‘anti-Gandhis’ letter
Four of the 20 signatories who were present at the crucial CWC meeting — Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and Jitin Prasada — were slammed by the top leadership and even accused of “violating party constitution”.
Ambika Soni and A.K. Antony led the charge against these signatories, and questioned them on their ‘intention’ behind writing the letter.
Wasnik hit back saying if he’s violated any law, he was ready to be punished.
“He (Wasnik) said whatever he is today is because of the Gandhi family and he could never imagine hurting them. He said if he’s committed such a big sin, he’s open to any punishment,” a leader present at the CWC meeting told ThePrint.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, party general secretary K.C. Venugopal and Rajya Sabha MP Ahmed Patel also slammed the signatories calling their views “unfortunate”.
“Patel said that at a time when the party and the country are facing such a tense situation, it is quite unfortunate that such senior leaders — who are supposed to show us the way — decided to write this kind of a letter,” a second leader told ThePrint.
Soni said there were enough ways to raise these issues in the party meetings, instead of writing such a joint letter.
Venugopal came to the Gandhis’ defence by asking the signatories: “What haven’t the Gandhis given to this country?”
Letter signatories defend themselves
While the signatories were cornered from all sides, they made an effort to put forth their view.
Besides Wasnik, Prasada also hit back at the veterans, saying he, like his late father Jitendra Prasada, follows the party’s constitution and can’t be accused of wrongdoing.
Jitendra Prasada was a senior leader of the Congress who fought the party’s presidential election against Sonia Gandhi in November 2000, but was defeated by a wide margin.
Anand Sharma too defended the intention of the letter, saying it was being interpreted wrongly and that he had never left the party’s folds “unlike others”.
This was a potshot directed at Antony who quit the Congress in the late ‘70s and founded his own Congress (A) party. It later merged with Indira Gandhi’s Congress in 1982.