It was a call from Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to Ghulam Nabi Azad which broke the ice in the Congress and brought the core team of the group of 23 leaders, who had been demanding sweeping reforms within the party, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi along with other senior leaders to a discussion table to defuse the tension.
Sources said an emissary of Priyanka had been in touch with one of the letter-writers for some time. She was said to be exploring the possibilities of a reconciliation, underlining that a fractured party cannot take on the ruling BJP. The 23 leaders, too, were keen to have a dialogue but the blowback they had suffered after the August letter had left them with little option but to harden their position.
What had infuriated them more was the “name calling” and lack of effort from the leadership to understand their point of view.
But a virtual meeting of the Congress Working Committee, held on November 27 to pay tributes to late stalwarts Ahmed Patel and Tarun Gogoi, turned out to be the window both the sides were looking for. Although virtually, the meeting was the first time Azad and leaders like Anand Sharma came face to face with the other leaders. And that meeting saw many leaders making an impassioned plea for unity in the party. Priyanka, at that meeting, favoured dialogue in the party arguing that a united Congress would be the biggest tribute to Patel.
Sources said Priyanka spoke to Azad after she returned from Shimla. A meeting between her and Azad and Sharma followed. Everyone agreed that dialogue was the only way forward. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, meanwhile, met Congress president Sonia and broached the idea of a conclave. He met the core team of the letter writers too and finally the dates for the meeting were decided.
“It was she who broke the ice. At the end of the day, we are all Congressmen. And none of us want the issues to prolong. All of us know that the only way forward for the Congress is to remain united and fight the BJP together but there had to be a beginning somewhere,” one of the letter writers said.
Interestingly, Priyanka had played a role in defusing the crisis in Rajasthan some months ago when she reached out to Sachin Pilot, who had raised a banner of revolt against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. While the crisis was on, Priyanka had spoken to Pilot to placate him on behalf of Rahul Gandhi.