A DAY after Rahul Gandhi triggered a churn in the Congress expressing his intention to step down and ticking off two chief ministers and a senior leader for lobbying for tickets for their sons, some party leaders on Sunday argued that the spirit behind his desire to make way for someone else was right as he may be “hurt” and feeling “helpless”.
His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too, according to leaders present at the meeting, argued at the CWC that Rahul did not get enough support from the senior leadership on his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ campaign. Majority of the leaders parroted the much-used line that the Gandhis are still the glue that binds the party.
“He (Rahul) was of the view that the BJP has the RSS to build its cadre. The Congress is not just fighting a political battle… we are fighting an ideological battle… I have to build a party to take on the BJP,” a senior leader quoted him as having said in the Congress Working Committee meeting on Saturday.
The leader said his assessment was that Rahul is feeling “bogged down” by Congress presidency and handling and managing day-to-day organisational issues.
“He is very correct in what his assessment is,” another leader said but added the “crisis staring at the Congress is far too complex to be addressed in a hurry”.
The majority view in the party, however, was that Rahul should continue. At least two leaders, who were part of the core committee, told The Indian Express that Rahul had been upset over the fact that the senior leadership never aggressively endorsed his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ campaign, which he aired at the CWC meeting.
“He may be feeling hurt and helpless,” one of the young leaders said. “Rahul was frank in his assessment. He had been unhappy with the lack of support he received from the senior leaders on his ‘chowkidar chor hai’ campaign. He had shared this with some of us in the past,” a core group member said.
When leaders were persuading Rahul to continue, Priyanka is learnt to have said that Rahul was fighting the battle all by himself and asked the leaders where were they when he was fighting alone. She, in fact, at one point is learnt to have said that all those responsible for the defeat are “sitting in this room”. Rahul then asked leaders present “to raise hands who had raised this slogan”. “Very few hands went up,” a leader present at the meeting said.
The party has gone into a complete flux and many leaders are searching for answers for the party’s massive defeat. Former union minister Salman Khurshid said he was “completely puzzled” and do not have any normal, conventional wisdom or explanation for what has happened in the elections.
On Rahul’s desire to quit, Khurshid said: “It was politely refused (by the CWC) and I hope that is the end of the matter.” He said “he certainly thinks that he (Rahul) should continue.”
Former union minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal echoed the same views, arguing that “there will be no discipline left in the party” if the Gandhis step aside.
But many of the party leaders were surprised to hear that Rahul named Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath and P Chidambaram and accused them of placing the interests of their son above that of the party. “It must have clearly rankled him,” said one.