NEW DELHI: Fifteen months after Rahul Gandhi resigned as president of Congress party, the over 100-year-old political outfit is again in throes of a leadership crisis. The Congress Working Committee (CWC) met on Monday where Sonia Gandhi, who took over as interim President after Rahul’s resignation, conveyed her unwillingness to continue in her current post. The CWC’s main agenda today is to discuss the future course of Congress leadership. Here are the highlights:
‘Poetic justice’, says Asaduddin Owaisi
After senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad offered to resign from the party if Rahul Gandhi’s reported “collusion with BJP” remark is proven, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi on Monday said that Azad had accused him of the same and called it “poetic justice”.
“Poetic Justice: GHULAM NABI sb u’d accused me of exactly this. Now you’re accused of the same. 45 years of ghulami for this? Now it’s proven that anyone opposing Janeudhari leadership will be branded B-Team. I hope Muslims now know the high cost of loyalty to Congress,” Owaisi tweeted.
Sibal withdraws his “colluding with BJP” tweet
“Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him. I therefore withdraw my tweet,” the veteran Congress leader tweeted.
Earlier, taking to Twitter, Sibal said that he has never made a statement in favour of BJP on any issue yet Rahul Gandhi said that “we are colluding with BJP”.
Congress spokesperson Randeep S Surjewala clarified that the former Congress chief has not said a word of this nature, nor alluded to it and asked the former cabinet minister not to be misled.
“Sh. Rahul Gandhi hasn’t said a word of this nature nor alluded to it.Pl don’t be mislead by false media discourse or misinformation being spread.But yes, we all need to work together in fighting the draconian Modi rule rather then fighting & hurting each other & the Congress,” Surjewala tweeted while quoting a tweet by senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.
Will resign if Rahul Gandhi’s ‘collusion with BJP’ remark is proven: Ghulam Nabi Azad
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said he will resign if Rahul Gandhi’s “collusion with BJP” remark can be proven, sources said.
‘No one except from Gandhi family will be acceptable as chief’
As the Congress’ top decision-making body CWC met virtually to discuss the contentious leadership issue, several party workers gathered at the AICC headquarters here on Monday raising slogans, asserting that no one except from the Gandhi family would be acceptable as party chief.
The scenes at the party headquarters were indicative of the growing tumult in the Congress with the party deeply divided on the leadership issue.
Sonia Gandhi called upon party leaders to start the process of selecting a new party chief, said sources.
Over 300 signatories sign the letter of dissent
Two consecutive debacles in the General elections of 2014 and then 2019 where Congress lost to the ruling BJP party triggered discussions time and again around leadership change. The latest turmoil started with former Congress leader Sanjay Jha taking to Twitter to talk about a letter written to Sonia Gandhi last week by a section of party dissidents complaining about a “leadership drift” in Congress.
The stinging note of dissent has been signed by a diverse group of party functionaries – ranging from veterans and known family loyalists to not-so-senior ones. The letter is seen as a criticism of the functioning of Rahul who, with his decisions and comments, has appeared to set the party’s agenda on major issues even as he refuses to reclaim the president’s post. The signatories point to a leadership void and seem particularly irked by what they see as Rahul’s reluctance to engage beyond a small circle of confidants. They held discussions on Sunday and will be doing so again after the CWC meeting ends on Monday. The letter is learnt to have warned that leadership drift has decimated the opposition camp when the country needs a strong anti-BJP platform to hold the government to account on economic and security crises facing the country.
The letter was signed by the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and senior members like Anand Sharma, Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal, Prithviraj Chavan, Mukul Wasnik, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari besides younger leaders who were seen as close to Rahul like Milind Deora and Jitin Prasada. Several state and district leaders also signed the letter, taking the number to 300.

What does the letter suggest
Aggrieved over the drift, the letter is learnt to have sought decentralised functioning and collective decision-making. The signatories have also called for polls to the apex decision-making body, CWC, and revival of the parliamentary board.
With the CWC having all three Gandhis—Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka—the signatories have pitched for the appointment of a full-time party president, even if it were a non-Gandhi. The dissenting camp is concerned over the possibility of a ‘loyal’ party chief being installed and is demanding collaborative or collective leadership.
Criticism of the letter within Congress
With the letter’s contents going public, there was a volley of counter statements against the signatories from the CMs of Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry, former ministers Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar and leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
Congress leaders countered the dissenters, with many terming the timing of the missive insensitive when the party chief was not well and others saying Rahul Gandhi must end the ambiguity over being party president.
With arguments on both sides exposing a sharp divide between the ‘loyalists’ and those batting for change, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah, former Union ministers Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar, and state unit chiefs D K Sivakumar, Balasaheb Thorat, Kumari Selja, KS Alagiri, Mullapally Ramachandran, Anil Chaudhary and Govind Singh Dotasra released letters and tweets asserting the centrality of the Gandhis to Congress and the need for them to remain in control.
In the camp that criticized the letter, there was a strong sentiment that the uncertainty over leadership was hurting the party and Rahul must take charge.
Rahul Gandhi is not president but continues to play
According to a few senior leaders loyal to the Gandhi family, a major source of confusion has emerged since Rahul’s resignation in 2019. They say while he has stopped meeting them for discussions on the ground that he was no longer the chief, he continues to shape the party agenda with tweets and statements while his fingerprints are evident in organisational appointments. Party functionaries, all known to be his loyalists, publicly pitching for his return as party president are not restrained either. These leaders argue it has resulted in confusion among members while leaving veterans clueless and snubbed.
Additionally, while several senior leaders have urged Rahul Gandhi to use “nuance” instead of an all-out, impulsive attack against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul has been firm in his belief that his strategy is the best, which can be seen in the manner he has persistently spoken about the Rafale deal and now the Covid-19 pandemic, economic slowdown and Chinese intrusion.
If not Sonia & Rahul, then who?
The CWC meeting may see a strong request for Sonia to continue or for Rahul to take charge. But the two are unlikely to heed the request. Apart from her disinclination, Sonia’s health has emerged as an additional complication. Rahul, who has been unresponsive to the demand from loyalists to return as party chief, is unlikely to reverse his stance immediately.
There is a possibility that Sonia may agree to continue for a while if the period is used to find a full-time leader. Some are talking about proposing four vice-presidents to aid her or of nominating another interim president till Rahul Gandhi agrees to step in or a full-time replacement can be found, but these appear unlikely. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra taking over remains a wish for many party leaders.
Watch Sonia Gandhi offers to resign as Congress interim president at virtual CWC meet


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