At a meeting of the Congress “G-23” or rebel group last night, leaders ruled out splitting the party for now, but called for the Gandhis to remove their loyalists from key posts, sources said today.
The party is “too weak” and won’t survive the split, the dissenters reportedly discussed.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the leading members of the group of 23 “dissenters”, is likely to meet with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to deliver the message from the meeting.
An election post-mortem by the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, on Sunday has reinforced the rebels’ anger. They accuse the Congress of packing key panels with Gandhi family loyalists who, they say, have done little but shielded the top leadership while putting the blame on state leaders.
A party panel tasked with examining the reasons for the Congress’ state election debacle has the very leaders who were responsible for the defeat, say the rebels.
A group of 18 Congress leaders — a mix of G-23 dissidents and some ‘newcomers’ met yesterday at Mr Azad’s home.
They spoke in favour of a “collective, inclusive leadership” after the meet. Their statement did not reflect any call for a non-Gandhi at the helm, or an organisational election, which a section in the party has been rooting for. The leaders, however, demanded that the Congress be proactive to create a platform with other like-minded parties to take on the BJP in 2024 — aiming to end the slow isolation of the party amid the opposition.
Among the attendees, who between them covered six states, were Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan — all part of the group of 23 dissidents. Shashi Tharoor, who was also a signatory to the explosive letter to Sonia Gandhi two years ago, but had maintained distance since, also attended the meeting, posting a cryptic tweet in advance about making “a few more mistakes”.
There were also ‘newcomers’ Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Raj Babbar, Shankar Singh Vaghela and Manishankar Aiyer.
“We believe that the only way forward is for the Congress to adopt the model of collective and inclusive leadership and decision-making at all levels,” read the statement.
“In order to oppose the BJP it is necessary to strengthen the Congress Party. We demand the Congress party initiate dialogue with other like-minded forces to create a platform to pave the way for credible alternative for 2024,” the statement added.
The venue of the meeting, initially the house of Kapil Sibal, was changed at the last minute as some of the leaders felt uncomfortable in view of his recent statement against the Gandhis. At an interview with Indian Express, Mr Sibal had said, “I want a ‘Sab ki Congress’. Some others want a ‘Ghar ki Congress'”.
Mr Sibal was also upset over the conclusions of the Working Committee meeting, which refused to hear of any resignation by Sonia Gandhi and her children and reaffirmed their leadership. “There is a Congress outside the CWC… Lots of leaders like us who are not in the CWC but in the Congress have an entirely different point of view,” he had said.