Updated: August 23, 2020 11:11:05 pm
On the day Sonia Gandhi offered to resign from the post of AICC interim president following a slew of questions by 23 senior leaders, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and state party chief Sunil Jakhar rallied behind her and her family underlying their “contribution” to the party.
“Gandhis are the only universally recognisable face of the Congress, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Sonia Gandhi should continue to helm the Congress as long as she wants and Rahul (Gandhi) should thereafter take over as he is fully competent to lead the party,” Amarinder said in a statement.
Amarinder, who share close ties with the Gandhi family, said, “At a time when the very bedrock of India’s constitutional strength is under threat, it is important for every Congress man and woman to stand firmly and unitedly behind the Gandhis, who had held the party together all these decades and could continue to do so. There is currently no leader in the Congress who could give the party that kind of strong leadership.”
Ahead of the Congress Working Committee meeting Monday, 23 party leaders, including ex-ministers, have written to Sonia Gandhi for the overhaul of the organisational structure and changes to the leadership. At least two Punjab leaders — former CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari, feature among the 23 signatories of the letter. However, Amarinder and Jakhar’s support for Gandhis hold significance as one heads the government and the other the state unit of the party. While Amarinder’s relationship with former AICC president Rahul Gandhi had soured at a point of time, his support for Sonia Gandhi has been consistent.
Amarinder said there was a bid by “some Congress leaders” to “challenge” the Gandhi family leadership of the party and argued this was not the time to raise such an issue, given the need for a strong opposition against the “BJP-led NDA that was out to destroy the country’s Constitutional ethos and democratic principles”.
Significantly, he said that the NDA’s success was attributable to the absence of a strong and united Opposition – a sentiment expressed by the 23 leaders – but argued 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.”
Singh added: “India is currently facing not just external dangers from across the border but also internal threats to its federal structure…a unified Congress alone could protect the country and its people.”
Terming the demand for a leadership change as “untenable”, Amarinder noted the “immense contribution” of the Gandhi family to the country’s progress since it achieved freedom from the British rule. He pointed out that there was not a single village in India which did not have a Congress member to carry forward its ideology of upholding the constitutional principles, rights and freedoms.
He said the credit for that went to the Gandhis, without whose selfless commitment, dedication and unimaginable sacrifices, the party would not have stood like a rock in the path of the BJP and its “Sanghi ambitions” to divide the country on the lines of caste and religion.
Pointing out that some of the leaders of the party have begun open discussions about “ideological disagreement”, he asked them to keep the party united since the party has a tradition of taking decisions after holding elaborate discussions in a democratic manner.
Amarinder warned that any move to divide or destabilise the party would give advantage to the dictatorial forces that are seeking to trample the ideals on which “our founding fathers had built modern India, that is respected by the world” today. “The destruction of those ideals would trigger the devastation not just of the Congress but India as a whole,” he cautioned.
“Electoral defeats could not be the yardstick for the leadership change,” he said, adding that just because the Congress was down at the moment did not mean the Gandhis’ contribution to its growth could or should be undermined. He referred to Rahul’s spirited campaign in Gujarat and argued it was he who led the party to power in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, Jakhar asked the signatories in the letter, to name the leader, who they wanted to be named the president of the party. “Are they talking of outsourcing the leadership of the party to someone? They should suggest a name, a mechanism. And who is stopping them to start a movement against the dictatorial government of the day? Is Rahul Gandhi stopping them? When it came to enjoying power, they all did it. Now, when the party needs each leader to start a movement, they want Rahul Gandhi to do it. It is like saying everybody wants Bhagat Singh but nobody wants him to be born in his family.”
Jakhar went on to say that Sonia Gandhi had not come forth to seek the presidentship of the party, “She was given the responsibility. She accepted it despite her health issues. Now they want a 24X7 person. I urge them to give out a name. Either you put up a name or put up with whatever you have.”
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