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Published On: Mon, Aug 24th, 2020

Sonia Gandhi to remain Congress Chief ,Says ‘no ill-will against dissenters’

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sonia-gandhi-rahul-manmohan-ptiNEW DELHI : The Congress Working Committee on Monday held a virtual meeting for brainstorming over the leadership crisis in the country’s oldest political outfit after its interim president Sonia Gandhi conveyed that she is unwilling to continue as the party’s ‘interim president’.
Sonia Gandhi will remain Congress interim chief till the next president is elected. Senior party leader PL Punia said that the next meeting will be “called soon, probably within six months, to elect new president”. 
Sonia Gandhi’s move comes at a time when 23 prominent party leaders, including Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Nabi Azad and other leaders like Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, wrote a letter to her asking for a full-time president, revamping major bodies including CWC and conducting polls for various party posts.
The note was also signed by 300 functionaries of the party. Also, the letter is being viewed as former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s criticism as he continues to shape the party’s stand on various issues through his tweets and statements even as he refuses to assume leadership as party’s president. Rahul Gandhi had stepped down as party’s presidential post following Congress’ defeat in 2019 General Elections.
During the meeting, Sonia Gandhi tendered her resignation but it was rejected by former prime minister Manmohan Singh. Rahul Gandhi expressed displeasure over the issue of the letter by 23 leaders at a time when Sonia Gandhi is not well and the party is battling BJP to save the government in Rajasthan. He also criticised the decision of the dissenting functionaries for going public against the leadership.
Sonia Gandhi had asked her party to begin the process of replacing her as chief even as demands from across party units sought a Gandhi to lead the Grand Old Party. In the Congress Working Committee meeting, Sonia Gandhi offered to step down  but was asked to continue by Manmohan Singh.

 He was among those who came out in support of Sonia Gandhi and hit out at the signatories of the letter.”The letter is unfortunate,” the former PM reportedly said. He remarked that “weakening the high command is weakening the Congress”.

Speaking after Manmohan Singh, senior leader AK Anthony said: “More than the letter, the contents of the letter were cruel.” He also spoke about “the sacrifices of Sonia Gandhi,” according to sources, and urged Rahul Gandhi to take over as Congress president
The decision came after some Congress leaders, including ex-ministers, wrote to her demanding “changes to the leadership”. The letter by former ministers and some MPs was believed to have been written a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, reports also surfaced that Rahul Gandhi accused many party leaders including stalwarts of colluding with the BJP over letter written to Sonia Gandhi. However, senior leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, party spokesperson Surjewala others said that these reports were not true as Rahul has not made any statement, or remark saying party leaders colluded with BJP.
According to sources in the party told Newstrack24x7.com that Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also said that if these accusations are proved then he would resign from the party. Though, for now, Sonia Gandhi is likely to continue as Congress chief, but it seems that Congress vs Congress storm is far from getting over.
Different voices have emerged within the party with one section comprising sitting MPs and former ministers demanding a collective leadership, while another group has sought the return of Rahul Gandhi to the helm.
The letter written by the 23 party members sought an “active” and “visible” leadership to stem the rot in the party which has been rocked by electoral defeats, desertions and crack within ranks.
But reports that he had accused signatories of the letter of being in cahoots with the ruling BJP were strongly denied by the Congress as well as the letter writers.
At the end of a seven-hour meeting, the Congress decided that Sonia Gandhi will continue in the post and a new chief would be decided at an All India Congress Committee meeting to be held within six months
To add to the din, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s old interview supporting her brother Rahul Gandhi’s demand for a non-Gandhi president has also complicated matters.
“Perhaps not in the (resignation) letter but elsewhere, he has said that none of us should be the president of the party and I am in full agreement with him,” Priyanka has said. “I think that the party should find its own path also,” she said.
Rahul Gandhi, who was believed to be with his mother as they both attended the online CWC meeting, intervened shortly after it began and questioned why the letter attacked the Congress when it was at its weakest, when it was battling crises in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and when the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) was unwell.
As the Congress’ top decision-making body CWC met virtually to discuss the contentious leadership issue, several party workers gathered at the AICC headquarters today 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.

Though the CWC meeting is taking place virtually, several Congress workers gathered outside the party’s 24 Akbar Road office and raised slogans in support of the Gandhi family. Many carried placards like “Gandhi ke alawa adhyaksh manzoor nahi (nobody is acceptable as president except Gandhi)” and “Gandhi pariwar ke alawa koi adhyaksh bana, toh party toot hi jayegi (if anybody outside the Gandhi family becomes chief, the party will break).
Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi said that she doesn’t hold anything against anyone, as the working committee of the party urged her to continue as party chief. “Congress is one big family and I don’t hold anything against anyone. But all, especially senior leaders should raise concerns at the party forum only,” Gandhi said after a seven-hour-long meeting of the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the few signatories who are also part of the CWC, offered to resign as he defended the letter at the meet. He later clarified that his resignation was not connected to anything Rahul Gandhi said and that never once did Mr Gandhi allege that the letter writers were colluding with the BJP.
Kapil Sibal, another signatory to the “dissenters'” letter, withdrew an angry tweet he had posted in reaction to Rahul Gandhi. “Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him . I therefore withdraw my tweet,” Mr Sibal tweeted. He had earlier tweeted: “Rahul Gandhi says we are colluding with BJP.
Editor’s  Comment:
The Grand Old Party is dealing with a modern crisis of leadership lacunae currently and understandably, there are differing views on how to revive the cadre morale and the party’s fortunes.
However, it is too early to ‘predict’ the course of action Congress will take as the combined political experience of the party is second to none and if anyone can come up with a rabbit out of the hat in this situation, it surely is the political outfit that used to be synonymous with leadership at the national level.

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