A day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, where members pledged their loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family and targeted the 23 senior leaders for their letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi, some of the signatories said on Tuesday that the party should have focused on the content of the letter instead. They also said that their loyalty to Sonia was unquestionable.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the letter called for sweeping changes in the party. The CWC on Monday acknowledged the letter, but neither discussed its content nor gave any specific commitments on the way forward.
Congress veteran Ahmed Patel said there will be an election for the post of party president when the AICC session takes place. At the CWC meeting, it was decided that Sonia will continue until the AICC session can be held.
“When the AICC session takes place, there will be an election for the post of Congress president. Anyone can fight in that. Ours is the most democratic and transparent party,” AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, coming out in support of the letter, senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar told The Indian Express that he has sent a message to the high command endorsing the “constructive suggestions” made in it.
“I have endorsed the letter. Because I thought that those were constructive suggestions. I didn’t find anything anti-Sonia Gandhi or anti-Rahul Gandhi. So, I endorsed it. I had not seen the letter. Nobody approached me for my signature… I decided to take my own initiative and I have informed the high command that I endorse these suggestions,” Aiyar said.
M Veerappa Moily, one of the signatories, told The Indian Express that his loyalty still lies with Sonia, but argued that “if there is a party, then there is a leader. If the party itself is collapsing everywhere, the leadership will not be strengthened.”
Kapil Sibal, also among the 23 behind the letter, put out a cryptic tweet: “It’s not about a post. It’s about my country which matters most.”
“Friends, we are not dissenters but proponents of revival. The letter was not a challenge to leadership but a parchment of action to strengthen the party. Universally, truth is best defence, whether it be court or public affairs. History acknowledges the brave and not the timid,” tweeted Vivek Tankha, another signatory.
“Well said. Sooner than later, those who saw the letter as an offence will also realise that the issues raised are worth consideration,” responded Mukul Wasnik, another signatory.
Moily said the “letter should have been used for strengthening the hands of Sonia Gandhi, not to weaken her, but the debate has been counter-productive, it was to weaken her only.”
The debate on loyalty, he said, was “created by those people who wanted a division of the party, to create a split in the party, whereas the letter is intended to unite the party,” he said. He said he was told that the letter was neither “read out nor discussed” at the CWC meeting.
“The intention (of the letter) has been misunderstood. I think many of them did not read it. They just went by the propaganda against the signatories. If they read it, it is not against the leader. It was for revamping the whole system. If this is not the time, then when…after 2024? It (the letter) was only for revamping the party so that we can be battle ready for 2024,” Moily said.
“All those people who speak about loyalty now… many of them have gone out and come back… and we have been with the Congress through thick and thin,” he said.
“The question is whether the party needs a change or not, whether it has to be revamped. The simple answer is yes. It is the need of the hour. There are only two national parties in the country – BJP and Congress. If one of the national parties collapses, then what will happen to the democracy of this country. So, in the interest of the nation also, we need to strengthen the Congress,” he said.
In Chandigarh, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who was also among the 23 signatories, “thanked” Sonia for her decision to continue as the party’s interim president. Hooda, who is the leader of the Congress Legislature Party, led the party MLAs in passing a vote of thanks.
Putting forward the proposal, Hooda said: “Sonia Gandhi is the most accepted leader of the Congress. The decision would strengthen the party and has filled party workers with enthusiasm and lifted the morale of all those who are fighting for the party”.