A day after the Congress suffered a morale-sapping defeat in the polls in five states, there were clear indications on Friday that the leadership of Rahul Gandhi will now be questioned and that the party is heading towards another round of debilitating internal turmoil ahead of organisational elections later this year.
While the party showed no urgency to introspect on the defeat, some of the leaders of the grouping (G23) that had written to party chief Sonia Gandhi in 2020 seeking sweeping changes in the party, met at senior leader and CWC member Ghulam Nabi Azad’s residence.
Separately, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath told The Indian Express that lack of unity and infighting harmed the party in Punjab and the absence of organisational structure cost it dear in the other states.
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The mood at the meeting was combative. Those attended include Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, party MPs Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari and Akhilesh Prasad Singh, and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Some other leaders are said to have joined virtually.
Some of the leaders made it clear that they don’t have faith in Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. There was even a discussion on whether leaders should attend the Congress Working Committee meeting that Sonia is planning to convene, some terming it “a perfunctory exercise as the members will merely expend their energies on praising the Gandhis”.
The leaders agreed that the party was staring at an “existential crisis” and it will sink further if credible corrective actions are not taken. It cannot be business as usual, some argued. “It was not a formal meeting. Some of us who are in Delhi met. But we will soon meet formally,” a leader said.
Asked how they plan to take it forward, a leader said: “If we don’t take it forward, we sink. We are sitting in a boat in the turbulent ocean of Indian politics where water is gushing in from all directions. So, we can either submerge or some of us will try to take it back to the shore,” he said.
The emergence of AAP in Punjab was worrying, the leaders said. “There are other alternatives emerging which will lead to our marginalisation. The crisis is real. We cannot sit quiet with our eyes shut,” he said.
Nath, the former Madhya Pradesh CM, said it was time for the party to introspect. He said while “infighting” and “lack of unity” in its Punjab unit led to the drubbing, superior organisational strength of the BJP prevailed in other states. Discussing the factors in different states, the former chief minister said that in Punjab, the Congress was up against a wave for change and “infighting was only one part of it”.
About Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress has hit its lowest score ever, Nath defended the role of Priyanka Gandhi who had a long election campaign in the state. “Priyanka created a spark in Uttar Pradesh. It was her campaign that made it a contestable election, though it may not have been a winnable one. It is true that our campaign started late,” he said.
Looking forward, he said, “In politics, there is nothing static. So, things can change drastically even in one or two years.”
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