With the party struggling with internal dissensions, a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), convened by party president Sonia Gandhi to pay tributes to late stalwarts Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi, Friday saw leaders making an impassioned plea for unity, with many suggesting dialogue and reconciliation as the way forward.
Sources said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra pointed out the need for internal communication and dialogue in the party, arguing that a united party would be the biggest tribute for Patel, for whom the CWC later said the “interests” of the party was “paramount”. It is learnt that senior leader Anand Sharma too argued that the party should work together to uphold the Congress ideology and reassure the people that it stands for them in today’s critical times.
Sharma was among the 23 senior Congress leaders who wrote the unprecedented letter to Sonia Gandhi, demanding sweeping changes in the party.
Sources said many leaders, like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and veteran Oommen Chandy, expressed the same sentiment at the meeting, the mood of which was said to be “sombre” with the leaders paying emotional tribute to Patel.
The call for unity is significant, with the party gearing up to elect a new president, possibly before February. It is also interesting given the turmoil and feud in the main opposition party, which resurfaced after its dismal performance in Bihar and the poor showing in the Assembly by-elections across the country. While leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal, who are among the 23 letter writers, have voiced concern over the state of affairs, many have attacked them for airing views in the public.
Sonia and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi recollected their association with Patel. Rahul said he valued Patel immensely and remembered him as a man who was discreet, loyal and one who stood by his word.
Who will be next peacemaker?
WITH THE Congress gearing up for elections to appoint a new president, there could be attempts from all sides to avert a showdown which would further divide the party. But if elections are held for the Congress Working Committee, it could throw up interesting surprises. With Ahmed Patel, the man who could play a role in finding middle ground, no more, the big question is who will act as a bridge between the leadership and leaders who have been demanding sweeping changes.
AICC in charge of West Bengal Jitin Prasada said one of Patel’s biggest qualities was that he never hankered after a post because of which he was never insecure. Patel genuinely helped people, he said. There were isolated calls asking Rahul to take back his resignation as Congress president and return to the helm, but the majority of leaders confined themselves to paying tributes to Patel and Gogoi, who were both CWC members.
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