CWC meet: After fight, hunt for Congress leader
The Congress Working Committee on Monday warned leaders against any attempt “to weaken the party and its leadership” even as Sonia Gandhi tried to close the chapter by saying differences were natural in a large family and that she would bear no ill-will towards colleagues who had written a letter pointing to a drift.
The letter, written to Sonia by 23 leaders, had got leaked to the media and caused much bitterness in the party.
While the leaks of internal communications and discussions to the media dominated the CWC meeting, the letter seemed to have had the desired effect as the process for electing a full-fledged president and strengthening the decision-making mechanisms was set in motion.
An AICC session will be called to elect the new president within six months and a small committee will be constituted soon to assist Sonia in managing day-to-day affairs, the CWC decided.
The resolution passed at the meeting said: “The CWC authorises the Congress president to affect necessary organisational changes that she may deem appropriate to take on the challenges listed above.”
Sonia had expressed a desire to relinquish the post but was unanimously requested to continue till the AICC session was convened to elect the new president. The general secretary in charge of organisation, K.C. Venugopal, later said the session would be called “as soon as possible”.
Since many leaders had voiced outrage over the letter, which had raised questions about the functioning of the party as well as the leadership vacuum, the resolution said: “The CWC makes it clear that no one will be or can be permitted to undermine or weaken the party and its leadership at this juncture. The responsibility of every Congress worker and leader today is to fight the pernicious assault on India’s democracy, pluralism and diversity by the Narendra Modi government.”
Rahul Gandhi too expressed deep anguish at such an initiative by senior leaders, wondering how a controversy could be created at a time when the Congress was fighting a grim battle against the BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere. He said such moves helped the BJP and wondered how Sonia was questioned when she was in hospital.
Four among the 23 who had written the letter are members of the CWC and were at Monday’s meeting — Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik and Jitin Prasada. They said that conveying their views to the party president was not a crime and that their intention was not to question the leadership of Sonia or Rahul.
Azad and Sharma reaffirmed their faith in the leadership while recalling their association with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and iterated their “unflinching resolve” to fight the RSS-BJP.
Some members demanded action against these leaders for allegedly leaking the letter to the media, with the veteran Ambika Soni leading this group in an emotionally charged speech. But the four said they were not aware how it got leaked, and that raising questions on a party forum did not make them dissidents or rebels. Their commitment to the Congress cannot be questioned, they said.
Azad insisted that it be made clear before the media that they were all part of the CWC resolution issued on Monday.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior leader A.K. Antony expressed pain at the media discourse on the party’s internal affairs, arguing that such episodes weakened the Congress and helped the BJP. Antony said it was cruel to question the role played by Sonia in these difficult times.
Almost every leader, young and old, agreed that the leadership crisis should be ended sooner than later and that a full-fledged party president should be elected. Almost everyone called for Rahul’s return as president.
Contesting the perception that the party’s performance has not been effective over the past few months despite the failures of the Modi government, the resolution said: “The last six months have seen the nation in the throes of multiple crises. We have been beset by the Corona pandemic, downward-spiralling economy, massive job losses, growing poverty and brazen Chinese aggression. The two voices that have been at the forefront of exposing the government’s inadequate responses, divisive politics and audacious propaganda are of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.”
The resolution vowed to strengthen the hands of Sonia and Rahul in line with the desires of millions of party workers. It said: “The voices of our two leaders have inspired a generation of Indians, both within and outside of the Congress, to rise and demand answers from this government which seeks to desperately distract the people through shallow and manufactured issues. It is under their leadership that crores of Congress workers and supporters have reached out to fill the large, callous gaps in governance left by this government as a result of which millions belonging to the poor and middle classes have been unjustly deprived of their rights and their livelihoods.”
While the organisation’s restructuring will take a while, the dissenting voices may have been silenced for now.
Sonia indicated a closure of the bitter chapter in her concluding remarks. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala quoted her as having said: “We are a large family. We have differences and different views on many occasions. But in the end we come together as one. I don’t hold any ill-will or grudge against any colleague. I treat everyone as part of the Congress family irrespective of however hurtful their views have been today or in the past. I have always risen above these to keep the family together.”