NEW DELHI: Uncertainty at the Congress helm continued on Monday with party president Rahul Gandhi remaining adamant on his resignation, forcing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) - the highest decision-making body - to call a meeting within the four days to decide the next course of action.
According to party sources, the decision was taken after efforts to convince Rahul, who offered to resign two days ago taking responsibility for the poll debacle, failed.
“The CWC is expected to meet within four days to take a call on the president’s decision,” said sources.
Senior leader Ahmed Patel and organisational secretary K C Venugopal had met Rahul Gandhi on Monday.
“Rahul Gandhi has been insisting that the party should find a non-Gandhi as president and he would work as a party worker,” sources added.
The turmoil within the Congress has started affecting its state units as well. From Bihar to Rajasthan, Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, the rumblings have started to get louder, even as four more Pradesh chiefs offered to step down, while a minister in Ashok Gehlot cabinet in Rajasthan was reported to have resigned.
The state chiefs who put in their papers on Monday belonged to Assam, Punjab, Jharkhand and Odisha, while in Bihar, former chief Sadanand Singh called for a complete break with RJD and its chief Lalu Prasad Yadav.
In Rajasthan, minister Lalchand Kataria was reported to have resigned.
In Madhya Pradesh, the party had remained polarised between the big three - Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijaya Singh.
While ministers Jitu Patwari and Imarti Devi called for a leadership change, Nath indicated he would give up the PCC chief’s post and expand the cabinet to accommodate the rebels. Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel also offered to quit the party chief’s post.
Rajasthan minister Ramesh Chand Meena put down the loss to legislators ‘grievances left unattended’, while another minister Uday Lal Anjana attributed it to wrong ticket distribution.
In Assam, 13 MLAs wrote to Rahul blaming state unit chief Ripun Bora for the drubbing.
While Congress president Rahul Gandhi continues to insist on having a non-Gandhi as the party chief, top leaders are absolutely unwilling to let go a Gandhi at the helm for the fear that a change in leadership at a time when the Grand Old party is facing one of its worst existential crisis would result in its falling apart.
According to sources, Rahul hasn’t entertained many visitors since Saturday and even Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was not given an appointment.
Senior party leader Ahmed Patel and organisation secretary K C Venugopal met Rahul at his residence, the sources added.
On Saturday, at the Congress Working Committee meeting, Rahul had criticised Gehlot, Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath and former Union minister P Chidambaram for pushing their sons instead of furthering the party’s interests.
He had also offered to resign taking responsibility for the electoral debacle, but it was rejected.
Explaining the Congress’s refusal to let Rahul go, a senior leader said the Gandhi family is the glue that has kept the party together.
“Having a non-Gandhi as party president means there would be different power centres and every state unit would become an independent entity rather than a united party. The factionalism in states would finish the party as nobody would listen to the others,” said a former MP close to Rahul, citing as an example the tenure of Sitaram Kesri as party chief in 1990s.
The Nehru-Gandhi family has led the GOP for decades, with Sonia Gandhi being at the helm for the longest, almost two decades, before passing the baton to Rahul in 2017.
Congress leaders explained this is like a catch 22 situation for the party and the only solution is to let Rahul continue and give him a free hand to change the organisational structure.
“With Gandhi surname, there are no questions about caste or religion. But if a non-Gandhi leads the party, there will be a lot of bickering on why a person from this caste or community was selected and not that,” said a former Union minister.
Meanwhile, the party asked everyone to “respect the sanctity of a closed-door meeting” of the CWC and avoid speculations.
“We would request everyone, including the media, to not fall into the trap of conjectures or speculations and await the calibrated efforts by the Congress party towards future course of action,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
“Various conjectures, speculations, insinuations, assumptions, gossip, and rumour mongering in a section of the media (over Rahul’s future course) are uncalled for and unwarranted,” he added.
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