Sonia Gandhi to continue as Congress interim chief for now, says no ill-will towards dissenters
The CWC also authorised the Congress president to bring about necessary organisational changes to tackle the challenges faced by the party.
The Congress, at the end of a nearly seven-hour long meeting of its working committee on Monday, decided that Sonia Gandhi will continue as the interim president till the next AICC session.
In a briefing, senior Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala and KC Venugopal said that the CWC has requested Sonia to continue as the interim president till the next AICC session could be convened and decided to form a committee to help her in day-to-day functioning of the organisation.
The party further said the CWC unanimously resolved to strengthen the hands of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in every possible way, while making it clear no one will be permitted to undermine or weaken the party and its leadership.
The CWC, the party's highest decision-making body. also resolved that inner-party issues cannot be deliberated through media or in public fora and all such issues must be raised within the party "in the interest of propriety and discipline".
As many as 23 Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, party MPs and former Union Ministers Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor had sent a letter to Sonia, calling for full time and active leadership, elections to the CWC and an “institutional leadership mechanism” aimed at the party’s revival.
Sonia offers to quit, colleagues protest
In her opening remarks during the meeting on Monday, Sonia offered to step down from her position and asked the CWC to initiate the process for selecting a new party chief, reported PTI, quoting unnamed sources. The interim president also said that she had given a detailed reply on the issue to AICC general secretary KC Venugopal.
Sonia was made the interim president last year after Rahul Gandhi resigned in the wake of the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.
Speaking after Sonia, former prime minister Manmohan Singh urged her to complete the full session and was backed by former defence minister AK Antony. Both the veterans also criticising the letter which had made it to the media. Antony termed the letter as “unfortunate and cruel”, according to the Hindustan Times.
Sources told PTI that Rahul Gandhi in his speech questioned the timing of the letter, which was sent to Sonia Gandhi when she was in a hospital and under medication. "It is the CWC and not the media where we put out our thoughts and discuss," he reportedly said.
Row over 'collusion with BJP' remarks
Senior leader Kapil Sibal, one of the signatories of the letters, later lashed out at Rahul for his purported remark that signatories of the letter were working in “collusion with the BJP”. Taking to Twitter, Sibal said he had had never made a statement in favour of the BJP in last 30 years. Sibal later deleted his tweet, saying Rahul informed him “personally that he never said what was attributed to him”.
Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him .
I therefore withdraw my tweet .
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) August 24, 2020
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also clarified that Rahul never made such remarks and warned against being misled by “false media discourse”. "We all need to work together in fighting the draconian Modi rule rather than fighting and hurting each other and the Congress," he said.
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. https://t.co/x6FvPpe7I1
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) August 24, 2020
Azad, who reportedly said that he would quit if the collusion charges against the leaders could be proved, later said that "some Congress persons" outside the CWC, not Rahul, had levelled the allegations.
"Let me make it very clear that Rahul Gandhi has neither in CWC nor outside said that this letter was written at the behest of BJP," he said.
What I said was, yesterday some Congress person had said that we did it at behest of BJP & in that context I said "It is most unfortunate that some colleagues (outside CWC) have accused us of collusion with BJP, and if those people can prove this allegation, I will resign".
— Ghulam Nabi Azad (@ghulamnazad) August 24, 2020
Congress is finished, says BJP
Ealier in the day, some BJP leaders including Uma Bharti and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, attacked the Congress and said that it would never be able to save itself.
"This is a party which is not ready to listen to truth, which terms those speaking truth as traitors, which terms those indulging in sycophancy as loyal...no one can save such a party," Chouhan said.
"It is heading towards destruction. If anyone speaks truth in the party, then it is alleged that they have colluded with the BJP," he said.
BJP leader Uma Bharti asserted that the dominance of the Congress was over. " The Gandhi-Nehru family's existence is in crisis, their political dominance is over, the Congress is finished.. so who stays in what position hardly matters now... Congress should return to the real Gandhi, the real 'swadeshi' Gandhi without any foreign element," she told ANI.
The letter sent by the Congress leaders to Sonia had triggered an outpouring of support for her to continue in the top post or for Rahul to take charge.
Almost all Lok Sabha MPs of the party wrote to Sonia expressing solidarity and urging her to continue in her post or instal Rahul Gandhi. Several state units including Delhi and Rajasthan passed resolutions favouring the leadership of Gandhis.
With inputs from agencies.
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