Sonia Gandhi, 73, will either resign immediately or give the party a deadline to find a new chief, sources said on the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
New Delhi, August 24:
Sonia Gandhi is expected to resign as interim Congress president as the party’s main decision-making body meets in the shadow of a letter written by 23 top leaders complaining about a drift in the party and calling for “a full-time, visible leadership”. The letter, demanding “collective decision-making”, calls into question the leadership of the Gandhis, who have led the Congress for much of its 134-year history. Sonia Gandhi, 73, will either resign immediately or give the party a deadline to find a new chief, sources said on the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that is now underway. Sources say Rahul Gandhi is also firm on not returning as Congress chief, a post he quit after the party’s second straight national election defeat last year.
Here are the top 10 updates on this big story:
Sonia Gandhi has told her aides that she does not want to continue as president, which was an interim arrangement after her son Rahul quit last year. She has asked the party to look for a non-Gandhi chief, say sources.
The CWC’s virtual meeting is set to begin with Sonia Gandhi delivering the opening address and announcing her decision to resign.
Sources say the “dissidents” who wrote the letter on August 7 – including former union ministers and prominent MPs – are likely to come under attack from the Gandhi loyalists, many of whom have either come out publicly in their support or have written to Sonia Gandhi pleading with her to continue leading the party.
The “uncertainty” over the leadership and the “drift” in the party has demoralised workers and weakened the party, said the letter signed by senior leaders like Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prithviraj Chavan, Vivek Tankha and Anand Sharma. The letter reportedly stresses that the Gandhis will always be an integral part of a “collective leadership”.
The letter has split the Congress down the middle with leaders like Amarinder Singh, Bhupesh Baghel and Siddaramaiah coming out in support of the Gandhis. “Sonia Gandhi should continue as long as she wants; Rahul Gandhi should take over after her as he is fully competent,” Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Sunday evening.
Many believe the letter was intended to thwart attempts to bring back Rahul Gandhi as party chief. Over the past few weeks, many Congress leaders have pitched for his return.
Rahul Gandhi, say sources, is firm on not returning as Congress president. He is keen to continue to work for the party and fight the BJP-led RSS, sources close to him told NDTV as Gandhi family loyalists took on the leaders who signed the letter. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also clear she will remain as a general secretary and not take on any bigger leadership role in the party, sources said.
This is the first time since 1999, when Sharad Pawar walked out over Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin, that the Congress has seen an organized revolt against the Nehru-Gandhi leadership. Sources say going by the Congress playbook, there may be a “unanimous resolution” reposing faith in Sonia Gandhi as chief.
With the Gandhis, however, appearing determined to step back, the meeting may see the Congress being forced to commit to the task of appointing an interim president and launching internal elections, which involves an electoral college.
Sources say a team or committee is expected to be formed to find a way forward and guide the party in the process of organizational elections and “help bring internal democracy within”.