A letter from senior leaders of Congress demanded change in the functioning of the party triggered a controversy which turned the ongoing Congress Working Committee meeting stormy on Monday. ( File Image, courtesy: Indian Express)

Congress in damage limitation exercise after reports of wrangling in the CWC meet came out to the media

After the reports of heated discussion in the Congress Working Committee meeting on August 24 came out in the media the top echelon of the party swung into action stating that no such verbal duel had taken place and that at no point of time had Rahul Gandhi accused the signatories of the letter as ones colluding with the Bharatiya Janata Party. 

The party’s leader in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad came out with the clarifications and Kapil Sibal deleted his tweet he had posted earlier on Monday stating that Rahul himself had told that he had never said anything which the media have been reporting. Earlier, the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi, in a letter read by K C Venugopal on her behalf, asked the partymen to relieve her of her post. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requested her to remain in the post till the next CWC elects another President.

Sonia had taken over the party as the interim President on August 10 last year following the resignation of Rahul Gandhi on May 25, 2019 taking full responsibility for the Congress party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha election. If reports of television channels are to be believed the Congress Working Committee meeting started on a stormy note on Monday morning with upset Sonia and angry Rahul expressing their strong displeasure over the way the letter was written and leaked in the media. In all 23 senior party leaders were the signatories of the letter.

They include Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Anand Sharma etc. Reports also said that both Sonia and Rahul loyalists in Congress were not happy with the way the letter was written and leaked in the media. If Sonia and Rahul have certainly lashed out at the top leaders of the party, as TV channels had reported it was something unprecedented. It was only after this that Sibal tweeted that he had at no point of time colluded with the BJP.

Perhaps sensing that things may further deteriorate Rahul approached Sibal to convince him to remove the tweet. Though the letter praised the contributions of the Gandhis it had called for the collective leadership of the family and an end of the present stage. Analysts are of the view that the Congress is in a fix and there appears to be more than one voices on the issue of the leadership.

With Sonia not keeping good health, and Rahul reluctant to take up the mantle of the party many senior leaders do not want to elect any new President from outside the family. They are well aware of the 1990s when after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991 Narasimha Rao took over as both the president of the party and the Prime Minister of the country.

After five years the party’s tally in the Lok Sabha came down to 140 in 1996 from 244 in 1991. Then under the leadership of Sitaram Kesri the fortune further plummeted compelling the senior leaders to request Sonia Gandhi to take up the leadership.

It is another thing that three top leaders Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and PA Sangma had on May 25, 1999 parted ways and formed the Nationalist Congress Party. The argument forwarded was that the post of the president should not be handed over to anyone of foreign origin.

Two decades later the Congress is yet to come out from the domination of the Gandhi family. Anyway after August 24 rather unusual CWC meeting the dust seems to have settled down by late afternoon, at least for now. If everything goes on well this would be the first time that the voice of dissent got some chance to be heard–but at what cost. That could be known only later. 

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