New Delhi: The seven-hour Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting Monday exposed cracks in the party — with a clash emerging between the signatories of a letter, who demanded “full-time and effective leadership”, and those backing the current leadership.
Senior leader A.K. Antony, considered close to Sonia Gandhi, hit out at the dissenters, calling the letter “cruel” in nature.
The letter was written by at least 23 senior Congress leaders, including former chief ministers and Union ministers, and sitting MPs and CWC members, to Sonia a fortnight ago, demanding a “full time and effective leadership”.
Former Union minister Ambika Soni hit out at Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the signatories of the letter, saying he served as the Leader of Opposition from 2014 to 2019, and “how he could challenge the leadership when he himself was part of the leadership since 2014,” a party source said.
The signatories of the letter did not take the attack lying down.
Former minister Anand Sharma, one of the signatories, hit back at those criticising the letter, saying “he never left the party”, but always acted within the realm of the party rules.
This was a jibe at Antony who quit the Congress in the late ‘70s and founded his own Congress (A). The party later merged with Indira Gandhi’s Congress in 1982.
Soni too had in 2017 quit her position as the party’s in-charge in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Reports of her having quit the Congress had also emerged, but she later denied it.
Jitin Prasada, the Congress’ ‘Brahmin’ face in Uttar Pradesh, also hit back at the veterans, saying he, like his father late Jitendra Prasada, played by the party’s constitution.
Prasada, who served as the political adviser to former PMs Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao, fought and lost Congress’ presidential election against Sonia Gandhi in November 2000.
Also read: What we don’t know about the crisis in the Congress
‘Letter’s signatories became focus, not the content’
The letter had raised several concerns and demands — the need for elections to the CWC, a leadership that is visible and active on the field, and an urgent constitution of a central parliamentary board, among other things.
The signatories said none of these concerns were addressed and this was an “opportunity lost”, said a party leader, who was in the meeting.
“It’s like the actual content of the letter and concerns flagged were circumvented, and the focus was on who wrote the letter and why,” the leader added.
Three of the signatories, Manish Tewari, Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, arrived at Azad’s residence soon after the meeting got over to discuss the “future course of action”.
Delhi: Congress leaders Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and Kapil Sibal arrive at residence of Ghulam Nabi Azad. pic.twitter.com/37bhiwCxh0
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2020
“Everyone unanimously praised the leadership of Mrs Gandhi. The content of the letter wasn’t addressed as much as why such a letter was written in the first place,” said the leader.
Many leaders who were signatories of the letter, also emerged as the first ones to praise Sonia’s leadership during the CWC meeting.
Anand Sharma, among others, lauded Sonia’s leadership.
“Her role has been invaluable, and nearly every leader at the meeting reiterated that,” a second source said.
Azad, meanwhile, also clarified on Twitter that he is not resigning and that he was reacting to “some colleagues”, who had suggested that he and other signatories were acting at the behest of the BJP.
A section of media is wrongly attributing that, in CWC I told Shri Rahul Gandhi to prove that the letter written by us is in collusion with BJP-“let me make it very clear that Shri Rahul Gandhi has neither in CWC nor outside said that this letter was written at the behest of BJP"
— Ghulam Nabi Azad (@ghulamnazad) August 24, 2020
Sibal, who wasn’t a part of the meeting, chose to take the fight public, hitting out at Rahul on Twitter, but then quickly deleted it. Sibal, in his original tweet, had said that Rahul suggested a “collusion” between the letter’s signatories and the BJP.
“Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him. I therefore withdraw my tweet,” he wrote.
Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him .
I therefore withdraw my tweet .
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) August 24, 2020
Sonia hurt, but says ‘let’s move on’
A second party source said Sonia felt “hurt” over the letter. “She said such concerns should be raised and kept internal, not leaked to the media,” the source said.
Rahul reiterated her statement, saying it was on “the party’s insistence” that Sonia agreed to accept the post of the interim president one year ago.
“But in her closing remarks, she made it very clear that she holds no ill-will or grudges against anyone, including the signatories of the letter,” a second party leader said.
It was a very “let’s forget and move on approach’,” the leader added.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also reiterated the same.
“Sonia Gandhi has never held a grudge against anyone and never will… she just says that any dissent should be raised in the party fora,” Surjewala said in a press briefing after the meeting.
Sonia’s letter to party general secretaries Sunday, saying she is stepping down as the party president, was also discussed at the CWC meeting, and noted in the CWC resolution too.
“She reiterated the same at the meeting,” the second party leader said.
But ultimately, she agreed to continue as the president in her closing remarks, he added.
Also read: Sonia Gandhi to continue as Congress interim president until next AICC session
In a democracy, we need a good solid 2nd party to be able to provide the checks and balances against the ruling party. Congress is the only party that has the reach across the country, does have the legacy (good/bad), few good leaders (though corrupt a bit and that is something we have to live with). At this stage, we as a country can’t afford to let Congress commit suicide which is where they are headed following the leadership of Sonia/Rahul/Priyanka. The letter by the 23 senior members was written in the best interest and rest of Congress need to rally behind it. Not sure what are the ulterior motives of wanting to have the Gandhi’s lead, it is time for the Congress (minus Gandhi) to take the bull by the horn and oust the Gandhi’s from the party. The brand name of Congress is the asset and hence not suggesting to split. Take it on the brigade of 23, you owe it to the country.
Till such time this Gandhi family is at the helm of affairs, congress is not going to be revived. Also most of its leaders have no guts to put forward their grievances even if they are called to be supporters of bJP. But the fact is, there is no leader worth the name who can revive this party.
Till such time congress is headed by Gandhi family, there is no chance of its revival. It is also a fact that many leaders have no guts to speak against this family but in fact they are also fed from it. It is time for it to first set its own house in order before criticizing the government on useless issues like NEET and JEE examination.
Group of 23 have realised the forthcoming situation and circumstances fairly well. They are bound to be concerned about their political future , after playing innings for the party for substantially long periods.
I am 88 years old and belong the era of Gandhiji and Nehru and love my country and respect its Constitution . Nehru included opposition leaders like Ambedkar and Shyamprasad Mukerjee in his cabinet. It is a pity that Sonia Gandhi was advised wrongly on the points raised by the “23”. Among the 23 are all not onky loyal but have been in the forefront and effective in taking on the ruling party. They have been very strong in their criticism in the Parliament and in public. They have not uttered a single word in public against the leadership of the party and only wrote to the President of the party . It is no secret that Soniaji is having serious health problems and the party’s Constitution provides for elections to the State PCCs, CWC . Including thr President. Rahul can be elected if he decides to stand. With the numerous policies and decisions taken by the present Govt, it is the party acts as quickly as possible to garner support from all sectors of the country right from ground level to fight elections at State and country wide elections in 2024.. Rahul should have learnt his lessons from what happened in MP and also in Rajasthan. It is a do or die situation for a national party other than BJP to lead all the opposition parties. If not, the oldest party on our country dying with the present Gandhi dynasty. Sonia Gandhi. Who has worked hard for the party for two decades should not heed any wrong mistaken advice and take the serious steps needed without favour or interesr
One is natural death, another is death becos of chronic Disease. Congress, so called, Leadership had coined “Natural Death by Design” through good old proven formulas like “Na Karenge – Na Karne Denge”, “Hum to doobenge sanam, tum sab ko khatam kar denge – hamesha ke liye”. Congress, so called party, has two and only two choices 1. Status-Quo and watch natural death 2. Look for new leadership by sidelining family, there will be multiple Congress. So, no so called congress party. Either way, they know the result. I think, some people shall drive an agenda in atleast in their own interest by being selffish. There is NO party interest left for now seems with status quo.
This was just the right time for the issue of change in leadership to be raised and smt Sonia Gandhi should do it herself under her able guidance as age and illness don’t allow any human to work efficiently.
Congress has to wait for any change till Sonia dies. And then Congress will die.
The Congress party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Gandhi dynasty. As such, meritocracy is not only not encouraged, merit is an absolute disqualification because it might threaten the power of the dynasty, which, let’s face it, has precious little merit these days. The Gandhi dynasty is still to come to terms with the fact that monarchy is no longer a template for India and that Indian people look for more than inheritance of power in prospective leaders. The Congress party is, in fact, the dynasty’s source of livelihood as much as any local grocer’s shop. In a grocery, no matter how competent an assistant and how unfit the children of the owner, the assistant will always remain an assistant and, if too competent and able, is liable to be shown the door before he becomes a threat to the inheritance. Even a failing business is preferable to one that can be rescued only by slipping out of the hands of the owner’s family. The Gandhi dynasty is more than ready to let the Congress keep losing every election, to let India fall for the foreseeable future under the insalubrious and infelicitous rule of the BJP, rather than hamd over the party to someone, however capable, who is not part of the family monarchy. That is the tragedy, and the reason why the Congress must be destroyed first if India is ever to be rid of the tenebrous kakistocracy of the BJP.
Congressmen want the last rites of Congress to be performed by Gandhi-ians. Well. So be it.
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