NEW DELHI: After a letter surfaced calling for reform from top to bottom within the Congress, the pro-Gandhi family lobby has come out against the letter and lashed out at those behind it.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also rejected the letter, as he said in a statement that "Sonia Gandhi should continue as party president. What the Congress needs is a leadership that is acceptable not just to a few but to the entire party, through its rank and file, and the nation at large," he said, adding that the Gandhis were the right fit for this role.
"Sonia Gandhi should continue to helm the Congress as long as she wants," he said, and added that Rahul should thereafter take over as he was fully competent to lead the party."
While the debate within the party ahead of the Congress Working Committee meeting is on who will lead the party, the question still looms large as former Union minister Salman Khurshid said that "there should be no push for elections and consensus should be given a chance within the party on the issue. Rahul Gandhi has full support of the party and workers."
The Congress is divided in terms of who will replace Sonia Gandhi and speculation has intensified ahead of the crucial CWC meet. While some Congress leaders who have signed the letter said that they are not in sync with all its content but have still conveyed their feelings which must also be considered.
There is no opposition to Rahul Gandhi per se as Amarinder Singh said that electoral defeats could not be the only yardstick for leadership change. He warned that "any move to divide or destabilise the party would hand the advantage to the dictatorial forces that are seeking to trample the ideals on which our founding fathers had built modern India that is respected by the world today."
Congress sources say that the matter may be discussed in the working committee but party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said "I have not seen the letter so I will not comment on it" while denying any interview given by Sonia Gandhi on this issue.
The Congress is contemplating chalking out a strategy for a smooth CWC meet as desired by the high command and party managers are reaching out to dissenters. Sources close to leaders who are perceived to be in the Rahul camp said they have made up their minds to corner those who are behind this move.
It is anticipated by the veterans that the Rahul camp may push the name of K.C. Venugopal, so everybody is gearing up with their strategies. But if the CWC decides for elections, the matter may be laid to rest. Rajya Sabha MP P.L. Punia said: "We want Rahul Gandhi to take over, which was also raised by the group wishing for his comeback as Congress chief."
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam too urged Rahul to take over the leadership role and lashed out at dissenters and termed it a conspiracy against Rahul. Sanjay Jha, sacked as Congress spokesperson recently, said: "Around 300 Congress leaders from all over the country, representing all regions and states, are signatories to the letter, over and above the names of 23 senior leaders already in the public domain. Their names remain undisclosed as it will distract from the core message of the letter itself."
Earlier, the Congress had denied the existence of such a letter but now it has surfaced with signatures of more than 20 leaders. The letter, while expressing concern on the rise of the BJP, calls for a "full-time" party chief. Sonia Gandhi has been the interim party chief since August last year.