Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday told the party’s MPs that he was firm on his decision to step down, arguing that the principle of accountability at all levels has to be enforced and it should begin from the top.
At a meeting of Congress Lok Sabha MPs, presided over by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul is understood to have rejected suggestions for setting up a committee for introspection, stating that such exercises are meaningless.
Sonia is understood to have remained silent — she neither asked Rahul to reconsider his decision nor suggest any steps to find his successor or put in place an alternative mechanism.
Meanwhile, a seemingly orchestrated campaign — although in no way similar in scale to the dramatic scenes witnessed when Sonia had refused to take over as the Prime Minister following the UPA’s victory in 2004 — has begun to mount pressure on Rahul to continue at the helm. Scores of Youth Congress workers on Wednesday converged outside Rahul’s 12-Tughlaq Lane residence here, urging him to reconsider his decision. Several middle-level party leaders plan to begin an indefinite sit-in at the party’s 24-Akbar Road headquarters from Thursday with the same appeal.
Rahul had first expressed his wish to step down as Congress president at the Congress Working Committee meeting a month ago, but he is yet to force the party to put in place an alternative arrangement, or set in motion the exercise to find his successor.
During the CPC meeting, sources said, Tamil Nadu MP S Thirunavukkarasar broached the topic, after which member after member urged Rahul to continue. Sources said Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor made forceful attempts to persuade Rahul and the meeting, called to discuss the party’s floor strategy in Lok Sabha, turned into a exercise in persuasion. Asking Rahul to reconsider his decision, Tewari, sources said, argued that the party should rather indulge in an honest, deeper analysis of what went wrong. Rahul is learnt to have replied that committees for introspection have become meaningless — at least one leader said Rahul felt committees are a mere eyewash.
Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh is understood to have said that Rahul would walk into a BJP trap if he resigns, and that he will preside over the Congress’s disintegration if he resigns now. Tharoor is learnt to have argued that any other leader who takes over as Congress president would be seen as weak and would not be able to command the legitimacy and credibility.
Tiruvallur MP K Jayakumar said the party’s candidates in Tamil Nadu won by huge margins because of the perception that Rahul could be the next Prime Minister, sources said. He is understood to have said that Rahul was projected as the next Prime Minister by DMK chief M K Stalin himself. “What will we tell the voters when we go back,” he is learnt to have asked.
Congress chief whip Kodikkunnil Suresh and several other MPs too weighed in. Sources said that after hearing Rahul’s argument, many, including Suresh, felt he was right.
Rahul, sources said, told the MPs that he was not going anywhere and will continue to be with them and work for the party in whatever capacity it wants him to work. He, however, was very clear that the principle of accountability should be enforced in the party and it should begin from the top, it is learnt.
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