Days after the party’s defeat in the 2022 assembly elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday asked the chiefs of the five state units — Ajay Kumar Lallu in Uttar Pradesh, Navjot Singh Sidhu in Punjab, Ganesh Godiyal in Uttarakhand, Girish Chodankar in Goa and Nameirakpam Loken Singh in Manipur — to resign.
The move — the first sign of the leadership’s attempt to fix accountability — came even as the party’s G-23 leaders planned to hold a dinner meeting on Wednesday, and is learnt to have reached out to several leaders who are not part of the grouping.
Sonia’s decision is being seen as a pre-emptive move to buy time and counter voices within the party calling for fixing responsibility and accountability. However, she has not asked the general secretaries and in-charges of these five states to resign.
The move to reorganise the state units came even as the war of words within the party escalated. The party’s chief ministers — Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel — hit out at senior leader Kapil Sibal, who in an interview to The Indian Express, said on Monday that the Gandhis should step aside from the leadership role and give some other person a chance.
“He (Sibal) is a big lawyer. There is no doubt about it. He joined the Congress. But he is not familiar with the culture of the Congress, its processes, the grind which workers have to undergo at the ground level before rising to the state level and becoming MLAs, MPs, ministers or chief ministers. Some don’t become anything. Sibal got many chances with the blessings of Sonia Gandhi and cooperation of Rahul Gandhi. He became a central minister, party’s spokesperson… such remarks by him are unfortunate. It was not expected of a person who does not know the ABCD of the Congress,” said Gehlot.
Referring to Sibal’s remarks that he wants a “Sab ki Congress” while some others want a “Ghar ki Congress”, Baghel said: “Congress is a party of every household. It is in every home. But some people want to turn it into a dinner-and-bungalow Congress. Had you come to Uttar Pradesh once, you would have seen what leadership and fight is all about. All those who used to talk about finishing off the Congress have faded away,” Baghel tweeted.
By evening, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said Sonia had asked the state unit chiefs to resign to “facilitate reorganisation of PCCs”.
“It is just a cosmetic exercise. What the party needed was a clinical surgery. What about the in-charges and general secretaries. They should all go. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has not resigned, neither has Harish Chaudhary or Devender Yadav,” said a senior party leader. While Vadra is general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, Chaudhary is in-charge of Punjab and Yadav in-charge of Uttarakhand.
Meanwhile, Vadra held a meeting to review the party’s disastrous performance in UP, where the Congress won just two seats.
Submitting his resignation, UPCC chief Lallu took moral responsibility for the defeat. He said he would continue to work hard for the party. Goa PCC chief Chodankar, who “accepted failure”, also resigned. Uttarakhand PCC chief Godiyal also tweeted that he had resigned.
If I sold tickets, party should expel me: Rawat
Responding to allegations of sale of tickets made against him by one of his party colleagues after the Congress defeat in Uttarakhand, former CM Harish Rawat on Tuesday said that “such an allegation against a former CM is serious and he (referring to himself) should be expelled from the party”.
Referring to himself in third-person in a Tweet, he further said: “Holi is a perfect time for the end of evil, and that is why Congress should end the evil of Harish Rawat this Holi.” Talking to the media, he said that if “Harish Rawat has sold tickets, the people of Uttarakhand should bury him in a pit”.