NEW DELHI: A crucial meeting of the Congress Working Committee started here on Monday where Sonia Gandhi told the party that she will quit as the interim party chief amid divisions in the party over the leadership issue.
After asking the CWC to relieve her of the post, she urged the party to start the process to find the new party chief.
"A year has lapsed now. In the interest of the party, I ask CWC to begin deliberations to put in a place of process of transition to relieve me from my duties," said Sonia Gandhi in a statement at the CWC meeting.
She also referred to the letter by Ghulam Nabi Azad, others while offering to quit.
Sonia Gandhi handed over the letter to KC Venugopal replying to note sent by dissidents, contents of which were read out.
Sources said Sonia Gandhi referred to Azad and others twice during her brief address and the issues raised by them.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who spoke after Gandhi, urged her continue and veteran leader AK Antony criticised the dissent letter by some leaders seeking leadership change.
According to sources, Rahul Gandhi pointed at the timing of the letter by party colleagues and criticised it. He questioned why the letter (over party leadership) sent at a time when Sonia Gandhi was admitted in the hospital.
"It is the CWC and not the media where we put out our thoughts and discuss," he is learnt to have said at the meeting, the sources said.
According many reports, Rahul Gandhi also alleged that the dissenters are colluding with the BJP. After Rahul Gandhi's remarks, Ghulam Nabi Azad said that he will quit party if found colluding with BJP.
First public reaction to the comments by Rahul, Senior lawyer and MP Kapil Sibal tweeted: "Last 30 years have never made a statement in favour of BJP on any issue."
Rahul Gandhi says “ we are colluding with BJP “— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) August 24, 2020
Succeeded in Rajasthan High Court defending the Congress Party
Defending party in Manipur to bring down BJP Govt.
Last 30 years have never made a statement in favour of BJP on any issue
Yet “ we are colluding with the BJP “!
The meeting is being attended by veteran leaders including Ex PM Manmohan Singh, Gandhi Siblings, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Amarinder Singh, Mallikarjun Kharge, PL Punia, and many others.
The party is divided on the leadership matter with a section demanding collective leadership and another reposing faith in the Gandhi family.
Top Congress leaders are expected to deliberate on the issue during the meeting of the party's top decision-making body that is being held virtually.
As the Congress' top decision-making body CWC met virtually to discuss the contentious leadership issue, several party workers gathered at the AICC headquarters raising slogans, asserting that no one except from the Gandhi family would be acceptable as party chief.
Interim party president Sonia Gandhi joins the Congress Working Committee's virtual meeting; the meeting is now underway https://t.co/Ea7oguNhqW— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2020
Almost all Lok Sabha MPs of the party have written to Sonia Gandhi expressing solidarity and urging her to continue in her post or instal Rahul Gandhi.
Following the dissent letter by a group of senior party leaders, several party men including Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Bhagel, as well as several state Congress chiefs rallied behind the Gandhis.
They called upon Rahul Gandhi to take over the reins in the event of Sonia stepping down.
However, sources said Rahul Gandhi is unwilling to lead the party.
Sonia took over as interim chief on August 10, 2019 after Rahul stepped down taking responsibility for the party’s Lok Sabha debacle.
Rahul Gandhi had resigned from the party’s top post in July, 2019.In the letter shared on his Twitter account, Rahul had taken responsibility for the party’s massive defeat in the general elections but had added a word of caution for other party leaders.
(With agencies inputs)