NEW DELHI: Several Congress leaders on Sunday threw their weight behind the Gandhi family amidst a growing tumult with the party deeply divided on the leadership issue on the eve of the crucial Congress Working Committee(CWC) meeting.
After 23 party leaders wrote to Sonia Gandhi seeking revamp of major bodies, sources close to her said she might offer to step down in the CWC and ask the party to look for a full-time president.
AICC media chief Randeep Surjewala, however, denied it.
Having a "full time" leadership that is active in the field and "visible" in party offices, dissolution of powers to state units and revamping the CWC in line with the party constitution are some of the far-reaching suggestions made by 23 senior Congress leaders in the letter to Sonia Gandhi, sources said.
As the news of the letter spread, several leaders, including many MPs, wrote to Sonia Gandhi, either calling for her to continue or urging Rahul Gandhi to take charge.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and former ministers Ashwani Kumar, Salman Khurshid and KK Tewary, among others, backed the Gandhis.
Opposing the bid to challenge the Gandhi family leadership, Amarinder Singh said this was not the time to raise such an issue.
"The move by these Congress leaders to demand a rehaul of the party at this critical juncture would be detrimental to its interests, and the interests of the nation," he said in a statement.
Gehlot said Sonia Gandhi should continue to lead the party and if she has made up her mind, then Rahul Gandhi should come ahead and be the Congress president as the "country faces the biggest challenge to save its democracy".
Congress leader Sachin Pilot, who recently rebelled against Gehlot and later called off his rebellion against the state government after the intervention of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, said, "Mrs Gandhi and Rahul ji have shown what it means to sacrifice for the greater good of the people and the party."
"It's now time to build consensus and consolidate. Our future is stronger when we're united. Most Congress workers would like to see Rahul ji take over and lead the party," he said.
Baghel wrote a letter to Rahul Gandhi, urging him to return as the president of the party.
"Hon'ble Sonia ji and Rahul ji are the ray of hope for us in every challenge. We are all with you. Millions of party workers and people of Chhattisgarh and the entire nation are with you," he tweeted.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath said any suggestion or criticism of the leadership of Sonia Gandhi is absurd.
"I appeal to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi to strengthen the Congress Party as the President and continue to lead the Congress," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Delhi Congress also passed a resolution calling for Rahul Gandhi to be made the party chief.
The Indian Youth Congress also passed a resolution that Rahul Gandhi must be made party's president.
In their tweet carrying the resolution, the IYC used the hashtag 'My Leader Rahul Gandhi' which was used by several Congress leaders.
Senior party leader Digvijaya Singh said it is a time for the Congress to be united and asserted that he cannot imagine a Congress without the Nehru- Gandhi family.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Satav also wrote to Sonia Gandhi, saying the Congress is "safe only in your hands or that of Rahul Gandhi".
Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar, in a letter to Sonia Gandhi, expressed support for the leadership of the Gandhis.
"Entire Congress Party in Karnataka stands by the leadership of Smt. Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi family. Mrs. Gandhi has led the Congress during times of crisis and saved our party," he said in a tweet.
"Anything that has to be discussed must be done so in the party forum and not in the media," Shivakumar tweeted.
Lok Sabha MP Manickam Tagore too demanded Rahul Gandhi's return as Congress president.
Shashi Tharoor, who was among the 23 leaders who wrote the letter expressing concerns over the party's situation, put out a cryptic tweet quoting Jawaharlal Nehru that said "we have become prisoners of the past".
"Without passion and urge, there is a gradual oozing out of hope and vitality, a settling down on lower levels of existence, a slow merging into non-existence.
We have become prisoners of the past and some part of its immobility sticks to us," he tweeted, quoting Nehru.
Former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah tweeted, "It is unfortunate that the leadership of Gandhi family is being questioned by few. In these difficult times of undeclared emergency and attack on democracy by BJP, we should collectively strive to strengthen Congress and not weaken it."
Ashwani Kumar and Khurshid both argued that elections would be divisive and consensus should be given a chance.