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NEW DELHI: A string of Congress leaders including chief ministers of Congress-ruled states came out in support of the Gandhi family on Sunday, a day after contents of a letter written by 23 leaders, calling for a “full time and effective leadership”, surfaced.
Emerging a day ahead of the crucial Congress Working Committee’s meeting on Monday and amid rumours that Sonia Gandhi would step down as party chief, the arguments on both sides exposed a sharp vertical divide between the Gandhi family loyalists and those batting for change. By evening, though, the ‘rebels’ appeared to have been heavily outnumbered by those reposing their faith in Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
From CMs Amarinder Singh, Bhupesh Baghel and Ashok Gehlot, to leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, Congress MPs Md Jawed, K Suresh, Ripun Bora, Rajeev Satav and Manickam Tagore, former Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar, and state chiefs including DK Sivakumar, Balasaheb Thorat, Kumari Selja, KS Alagiri, Mullapally Ramachandran, Anil Chaudhary and Govind Singh Dotasra, each released letters and tweets asserting the centrality of the Gandhi family to the Congress and the need for them to remain in control.
Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh opposed the bid to unseat the Gandhi family by a section of Congress leaders and called the move “ill-timed”, given the need for a strong opposition against the BJP-led NDA. In a statement in Chandigarh, Singh said the demand to re-haul the party at this critical juncture would be “detrimental to its interests, and the interests of the nation”. “India is currently facing not just external dangers from across the border but also internal threats to its federal structure,” he said, adding that a unified Congress was the only way to protect India and its people.
Baghel and Gehlot echoed Singh’s sentiments, asking for Sonia to continue as party chief, and for the reins of Congress to be handed over to Rahul, instead. “Hon’ble CP Smt Sonia Gandhi ji should continue to lead the party at this crucial juncture… where the fight is to save the ethos of our Democracy. She has always taken challenges head on. But if she has made up her mind -I believe Rahul Gandhi should come ahead and be the Congress President as country faces the biggest challenge to save our Constitution -Democracy,” Gehlot said in a series of tweets. Baghel also referred to Sonia and Rahul as Congress’ only “rays of hope” under whose leadership the party would sail through the “prevailing dangerous times”.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, in a letter to Sonia, referred to the “leadership crisis” as a “bogey” raised by “those members of the party, who have benefitted and grown in the Congress due to your encouragement and the faith that you have placed in them.” Chowdhury added that it was a “manufactured truth”, done “at the behest of some interested parties”, and aimed “to weaken the party”.
“We write to you today to tell you, unequivocally, that we have complete faith in your leadership. You took over the reins of the Congress at a difficult time and shepherded UPA to power when Congress was least expected to run the country. Though you have been subject to relentless vilification, you have maintained your dignity and laboured on for the party and for the country,” the letter, subsequently signed and shared by several party leaders, said.
The leaders also asserted that Sonia and Rahul never “hankered after power”. “Madam, you have given your life to the Congress party … We know that you could have been India’s Prime Minister, but you turned down that offer. It was because the Gandhi family has never been hungry for power. After Rahul ji resigned, it was after much persuasion that you agreed to take charge as party president once again. Even Rahul jis decision to resign from his post showed that you and your family do not hanker after power,” the letter said.
While Sunday’s chorus in favour of the controls remaining with the Gandhis swelled, and Delhi state unit passed a resolution supporting Sonia Gandhi’s continued presidentship, the CWC meeting on Monday, sources said, is still likely to be an animated discussion with all eyes on the group of 23 who called for change. Sources told TOI the family loyalists may also press for the resolution of the leadership debate at a bigger AICC plenary, which they said is the “only and the right platform” for any details regarding internal party matters to be discussed.
Former Union minister Salman Khurshid also suggested Congress should give ‘consensus’ instead of elections a chance, even as he asserted on Sunday that Rahul enjoys the “full support and endorsement” of party workers and leaders. “I have said very clearly that the Gandhis are leaders of the Congress. Nobody can deny this, even the opposition cannot deny this,” he said.
Ashwini Kumar also said that the “timing and motivation of the letter (written by the 23 leaders) are suspect. Although some Congressmen of long standing are signatories to the letter, there are some who have harmed the party repeatedly even after receiving more than their just dues,” he said.
Other leaders who pushed for Rahul and Sonia Gandhi to helm Congress includes senior Himachal Pradesh leader GS Bali, former MP Sushmita Dev, Aslam Shaikh, Sanjay Nirupam and Pawan Khera.

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