CWC unanimously rejects Sonia, Rahul's offer to quit

Shattered by the party's worst debacle in the elections, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi today offered to resign accepting responsibility but the party unanimously rejected it.

Their offer came at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee in the backdrop of rumblings in the party over the style of functioning of Team Rahul and demands for action against them.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at the CWC meeting today. Reuters

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vic-president Rahul Gandhi at the CWC meeting today. Reuters

The party authorized the party chief to carry out for a "thorough revamp" at all levels and passed a unanimous resolution expressing their total faith in the leadership of the Gandhis as it debated the way ahead in in the party's apex decision-making body.

"Accountability has been talked about. Wait for the reorganisation," was the succinct answer from party general secretary in-charge of organization Janardan Dwivedi who briefed the media after the CWC meet.

The CWC resolution pledged to the millions of Congress workers that it will create within the party opportunities and structures that will pave the way for a "thorough revamp of the organization at all levels".

Hinting at major changes at the level of the organization and in states ruled by the party, the resolution also said "corrective measures must be taken at the level of the party and at the level of state governments formed by Congress."

It was preceded by the categorical assertion by the CWC that "both the government and the party must share responsibility for the failure and we do so."

Making his resignation offer, Rahul Gandhi said he feels that the kind of accountability he feels there should be in the party is not there and he begins this accountability by
offering to relinquish the post as felt he could not fulfill the expectations party leaders had from him.

The Congress President said "I believe I have not been able to bring about the necessary changes to strengthen the party. Therefore, I take full responsibility for this crushing defeat and I am prepared to relinquish my position."

Rejecting the resignation offers of Gandhi as "no solution," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he, being the head of the government, also takes responsibility for whatever shortcomings existed at the government level.

Party leaders said this was perhaps for the first time that the Congress chief offered to resign after electoral debacle.

The constitution of a committee to go into the debacle is likely with Sonia Gandhi telling the meeting that "as a party, we must introspect on the results in all seriousness and in
depth."

She said "most of all what we need for our party is to accept that unless we undertake some structural changes, we will not be able to meet the serious challenges we face."

The communication strategy of the party came under severe criticism at the meeting which saw some general secretaries also expressing their readiness to quit their posts in order to give the party leadership a free hand in reorganizing the party structure as per the requirement, sources said.

The role of a "hostile media" also came in for a scrutiny at the meet with most of the leaders feeling that there was a slant in general reporting in favour of BJP.

The CWC also saw members raising concern over "never-before polarisation on communal lines" in this election, which saw BJP managing a record tally of 282 seats and Congress just 44 in a House of 543.

"I also believe that the message of Congress was lost in the din and dust raised by an aggressive and polarizing campaign by our opponents, which was backed by unlimited resources and a hostile media," Sonia Gandhi said.

"We should also ask ourselves, have we failed, both as government and party, to communicate our achievements?... It is vital that we ask these questions and more at every
level...What we need is a clear-headed and fresh thinking that will help us correct our shortcomings.

Some leaders also expressed concern over the way RSS helped BJP in polarization.

When Sonia and Rahul offered to resign, there was silence for a few minutes, which was broken by party leader Ajit Jogi who disapproved of any such act.

Those who spoke after Jogi, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anil Shastri and others, said the party needs the Gandhis all the more time when BJP is a resurgent force with the full backing of RSS.

There were earlier demands from the leaders that this time, the customary practice of setting up a committee to go into the reasons for the defeat and then forgetting the same
should not be repeated.

Before the CWC meeting, leaders had said speaking on condition of anonymity that accountability should be clearly fixed and action taken wherever individuals were found to be responsible.

Anil Shastri, a Special Invitee to the CWC, had also written a blunt letter to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on what went wrong and what needed to be done to get the party
back on track.

At the AICC briefing, Janardan Dwivedi, however, ducked queries on whether the advisers of Rahul Gandhi came under attack, saying, "I will not answer questions about any individual."

At the same, he added cryptically that, "When they have been authorised to bring changes, wait for the time."

To questions as to whether the offer by Sonia and Rahul to resign was only in name, Dwivedi said that they talked about quitting their posts, but the CWC had refused to listen.

The resolution placed on record the party's appreciation of the "untiring efforts" by Sonia and Rahul in travelling and campaigning extensively throughout the length and breadth of the country.

The resolution also acknowledged that the party had "failed to read the profound changes" and was "unable to connect with the electorate".

"It is obvious that there were shortcomings. It is also clear that we failed to read the profound changes that had taken place in the country during the 10 years since the UPA was voted to form the government.

"Changes that were, in large measure, due to the policies, programmes and legislation that had ushered in an era of rapid growth, empowerment of the people, and high expectations.

"Above all, we should introspect as to why we were unable to connect with the electorate," the resolution said.

Asking both the government and the party to "share responsibility for the failure", the CWC said that it acknowledges its responsibility for the result of elections and promised to collectively take corrective steps in order to win back the support of the people.

In her speech, the Congress President said, "The results of the elections are extremely bad but we must not be disheartended. The task of the Congress goes far beyond many elections."

She also said that the UPA government was the first government since the sixties to be elected for two successive terms. "It is but normal that after 10 years in office, any
government will face anti-incumbency."

In the meeting, questions were also raised over the functioning of the Coordination Centre for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by Union Minister Jairam Ramesh saying there is a need to assess its failures, the sources said.

AICC General Secretary B K Hariprasad felt that ticket distribution should be done earlier. He also said that RSS operates on a long term basis through many wings and there is a need to be alert, where it has sneaked into, the sources said.

Congress General Secretary Shakeel Ahmed said that there is nothing to be diffident in attacking the RSS while Digvijay Singh talked about the communication issue. There were also brief references to flaws in the initial campaign strategy of the party.

The CWC resolution also congratulated the Prime Minister for his "dignified and sober leadership" in the past decade. "It is confident that history will be more objective to
the accomplishments of the past decade than the 2014 verdict will give," the CWC resolution said.

In the backdrop of repeated reference to polarisation politics in the CWC meet, the resolution also asserted that Congress will resolutely remain at the middle of the political spectrum, faithfully reflect the needs and aspirations of all sections of people and make a determined effort to regain their confidence and support.

After the CWC draft was read out by Dwivedi, some changes were incorporated including omission of reference about not being able to connect with youth. Some members also suggested that corporate influence over the elections should also find a mention in the draft.

PTI