It all happened on expected lines at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Monday. In the seven-hour-long meeting of the top-decision making body of the Congress, party interim chief Sonia Gandhi offered to resign which was rejected outright. The CWC decided that Sonia Gandhi would continue as interim president of the Congress till next session of the AICC is convened to elect a new party boss.
As there is no chance of the AICC session being held early because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sonia Gandhi could continue to be interim chief till next year. And if Rahul Gandhi agrees to take over as party president, then the CWC can sit and take a call on this any time.
According to sources, having emerged stronger after the CWC meet, Rahul Gandhi may now make up his mind to be at the helm of the party.
Rajasthan Chief Minister and senior leader Ashok Gehlot backed Rahul Gandhi, saying Sonia Gandhi should continue as interim chief, but if she for some reasons quits, then Rahul should be the Congress president. Other Congress CMs such Captain Amarinder Singh and Bhupesh Baghel were also of the same opinion.
Amid acrimony that marked the CWC meet which took place in the backdrop of 20-odd senior Congress leaders’ controversial letter seeking organisational overhaul and collective leadership, Rahul Gandhi seized the opportunity to “rebuke” the leaders who shot off the letter to Sonia Gandhi.
Intervening at the meeting after Sonia Gandhi announced that she wanted to “be relieved of the post of party president”, Rahul Gandhi came heavily down on the senior leaders questioning the timing of the letter written by over 20 top party leaders targeting the leadership.
Sources said the Gandhi scion “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.”
Rahul Gandhi’s aggressive comeback at the dissenters, and support from several leaders who wanted him to be new boss if Sonia Gandhi stepped down, paved the way for his grip over the party getting stronger than before. What lends credence to this belief is that the pro-changers, who were hitherto raising questions against the leadership style of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, authorised her to make necessary organisational changes to strengthen the party. It means the decisions regarding any change from grassroots to CWC levels will have Rahul Gandhi’s say and imprint. The Gandhi scion himself hinted at this by raising the issue of his mother Sonia Gandhi’s health when he said that he did not want her to be burdened too much.
Sources said that Sonia Gandhi in her closing remarks said she was hurt, but said that she has “no ill-will” towards anyone. However, there are no indications of action against the 23 senior leaders as of now, who challenged the leadership. However, Rahul Gandhi has given them a message, saying that they should not discuss inner party issues in the media or on public fora. Rahul Gandhi has been very upset with some of these leaders going public with comments embarrassing to the party at one point of time or the other.
After the letter was leaked, Rahul Gandhi had his strategy ready. He had his script ready to counter the senior leaders. Sources say the Gandhi scion turned the tables on them when he said that the veterans had done no service to the cause of the party by raising such issues at a time when the Congress was crises-ridden in MP and Rajasthan. Congress CMs including Gehlot, and other state leaders who were in the meet in capacity as non-regular members, backed Rahul Gandhi tremendously. This gave the Gandhi scion a sense of heavy confidence.
Earlier, Sonia Gandhi offered to step down during the CWC meeting. She was then supported by Dr Manmohan Singh. “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 A.K. Antony 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 CWC then refused to accept the resignation offer of Sonia Gandhi. But the support coming also from some of the veterans combined with the backing of youngsters boosted Rahul Gandhi’s confidence. Sources say that Rahul Gandhi will now tighten his grip on the organisation more than ever before. It is a common knowledge that Rahul Gandhi has been under attack from the old guards of the party for quite some time now. He was targeted once in the CWC last time and another time during Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with the Congress Rajya Sabha MPs. Sources say that the old guards have been taken aback by Rahul Gandhi’s aggressive gesture and show of confidence. Ghulam Nabi Azad, who offered to resign at one point of time during the meeting, later said that his step was not linked to what Rahul Gandhi said. Similarly, Kapil Sibal also deleted his angry tweet.