Congress letter-writers: Not dissenters
The tension in the Congress created by the letter written by some leaders might have eased on Tuesday with Sonia Gandhi’s mature handling of the situation but serious differences on vital issues persist and the spectre of disunity still looms on the party.
Many of those who wrote the controversial letter expressed gratitude for Sonia’s “gracious” and “thoughtful” response — she had said differences in a large family are natural — but the levels of mistrust and bitterness between the two groups have not come down. While one group is elated about the “crushed rebellion”, the other — indisputably much larger than the 23 signatories to the letter — believes attempt to brush the issues raised under the carpet would harm the party.
One senior leader told The Telegraph: “We didn’t leak the letter. We don’t even have the copies of the letter with us. We had decided not to hold this debate through the media. But the letter gets leaked mysteriously a day before the Congress Working Committee. That harmed us because the undesirable act of leak dominated the discussions instead of the substantive issues we raised. We would have loved to discuss those fundamental issues at the CWC, not the leak.”
This group suspects one office-bearer, arguing that the leak was a deliberate ploy to put them on the defensive.
Although the immediate crisis was averted with Sonia’s refusal to take disciplinary action against the authors of the letter despite the outcry for punishment, there remains a clear divide in the party and off-the-record conversations in both camps suggest the party president’s conciliatory gestures haven’t reduced the antagonism.
Another leader said: “We are traitors because we want the leadership crisis to end soon, because we want a collective decision-making mechanism till a full-fledged president takes over, because we want a more intense political resistance to the Narendra Modi government, because we advocated action on the ground instead of Twitter… so we should be punished. This pearl of wisdom is coming from our leaders at a time when Sachin Pilot and 19 MLAs have been embraced after they jeopardised the Rajasthan government. Rahul Gandhi should ponder how wise his advisers are.”
This leader added: “Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik said at the CWC meeting yesterday that let there be action against them if they committed any wrong. Why was no action taken? Because Sonia showed maturity. What do these people want… to split the party, to weaken the Congress? We are not going anywhere. Our commitment is proven. Those who wanted to crush us should ponder what their political acumen is. If this is the way party is run, under the guidance of greenhorns and sycophants, only God can save us.”
Some leaders also expressed similar sentiments on Twitter on Tuesday.
Kapil Sibal tweeted a terse one-line message on Tuesday: “It’s not about a post. It’s about my country which matters most.”
Another signatory to the letter, Vivek Tankha, Rajya Sabha MP and party’s legal cell head, tweeted: “Friends we are not dissenters but proponents of revival. The letter was not a challenge to leadership but a parchment of action to strengthen the party. Universally truth is best defence whether it be court or public affairs. History acknowledges the brave & not the timid.”
Mukul Wasnik, always considered a systems man and a Gandhi family loyalist, responded to Tankha, saying: “Well said. Sooner than later those who saw the letter as an offence will also realise that the issues raised are worth consideration.”
Wasnik has been the senior-most general secretary of the party, an integral part of the high command structure for over three decades although he has no public support of his own.
Anand Sharma, who too has been close to the family since Indira Gandhi’s days, responded to Tankha: “Well said. The letter was written with the best interest of the party in our hearts and conveying shared concerns over the present environment in the country and sustained assault on the foundational values of the constitution. India needs a strong opposition to confront the BJP. Suggestions for the party’s renewal made in sincerity is not dissent. Wish all colleagues had read it.”
Many important leaders privately express support to the group that signed the letter, saying the issues raised were vital. The opponents also agreed the crisis should end sooner rather than later, but are opposed to putting pressure on the leadership and generating negative publicity.