New Delhi: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi Saturday took a potshot at party members who have been publicly critical of the leadership, saying she is “acutely” aware that she has been interim president of the party since 2019.
Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, she said, “I am acutely conscious of the fact that I have been an interim Congress president ever since the CWC asked me to return in this capacity in 2019.”
Sonia took over the role after her son, MP Rahul Gandhi, quit the post of president in the light of the Congress’ drubbing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the second-consecutive general election where it scored a double-digit tally.
“I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands-on Congress president,” Sonia said of her role in her opening remarks.
“In the last two years, a large number of our colleagues, particularly the younger ones, have taken on leadership roles… Never have we let issues of public importance and concern go unaddressed.
“You are aware that I have been taking them up with the Prime Minister as have Dr Manmohan Singh and Rahul ji. I have been interacting with like-minded political parties regularly. We have issued joint statements on national issues and coordinated our strategy in Parliament as well,” she added.
She also announced that a schedule for “full-fledged organisational elections” of the party will be discussed in the meeting.
“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.
The CWC, Sonia added, had decided to elect a regular president by 30 June 2021 but the process got delayed due to the second Covid wave.
“Today is the occasion for bringing clarity once and for all. A schedule for full-fledged organisational elections is before you,” Sonia said, adding that organisational general secretary K.C. Venugopal will brief the members on the roadmap.
Referring to the leaders who have been public in their grievances with the party, especially on the subject of a lack of a regular party president, Sonia said she had “always appreciated frankness”.
“There is no need to speak to me through the media,” she added. “So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC.”
In the last two years, several questions have been raised on Sonia Gandhi’s leadership.
In August 2020, 23 Congress leaders, who have since been dubbed ‘G-23’, had written to Sonia demanding a “full-time and effective leadership” along with a string of organisational changes.
Kapil Sibal, one of the most vocal ‘G-23’ members, held a press conference in September demanding that a CWC meeting be held to discuss the Punjab turmoil and the series of exits from the party. The group of 23 has since shrunk to 21, with Jitin Prasada leaving the party and Veerappa Moily distancing himself from the initiative.
Assembly polls, J&K, farm laws
In her opening remarks, Sonia Gandhi addressed the Congress’ fight against the Modi government’s three new farm laws, the increasing prices of essential commodities like fuel, “a sudden spurt in killings” of minorities in Jammu and Kashmir, and India’s foreign policy concerns, especially vis-a-vis China.
“There has always been a broad consensus on foreign and neighbourhood policy in our country. But that consensus has been damaged because of the Prime Minister’s continued reluctance to take the Opposition into confidence in any meaningful manner,” Sonia said.
“The Prime Minister telling the Opposition leaders last year that there had not been any occupation of our territory by China and his silence ever since is costing our nation dearly,” she added.
Talking about the assembly elections in multiple states next year, she said the party’s preparations had begun a while back but it still faces many challenges.
“Undoubtedly, we face many challenges but if we are united, if we are disciplined and if we focus on the party’s interests alone, I am confident that we will do well,” she said.
(Edited by Rachel John)