The angry outburst of organisation general secretary KC Venugopal at the post-Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet press conference last week exposed the deep differences within the party despite Sonia Gandhi asking for unity. He said, “Rahul Gandhi is special and everyone knows that all the decisions are taken by Sonia Gandhi.”
The double attack, the first from Sonia Gandhi inside the CWC meeting and the second at the press conference, has left the group of 23 (G23) dissenting members smarting and somewhat angry. Sources said the meet was called not to placate the rebels but to make it clear to them once and for all that public comments from them were no longer acceptable. In the end, they feel the political resolutions may have attacked the BJP but the big takeaway was Sonia Gandhi’s snub to the G23. And the angry dissenters feel that they will wait for the results of the 2022 state elections and if the Congress does badly then “we can’t afford to keep quiet anymore".
One such member told News18.com, “What do you say about those who attacked PV Narasimha Rao and Sardar Patel at the CWC meet. When they don’t value our icons, how do you expect them to respect us?” The source was referring to the newly joined Kashmir leader Tariq Karra who, while praising Jawaharlal Nehru, said Patel wanted to give Jammu and Kashmir to Jinnah and Pakistan. Not just this, another CWC member accused former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao of being a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) agent.
What angered the G23 members, said sources, was that in all this the Gandhis were quiet and refused to defend Patel and Rao.
There was resentment at the meet towards Kapil Sibal and his comment on party leadership. Sources said Sonia Gandhi then decided this was enough and such remarks, if allowed to go unchecked, would weaken the party and embolden those in the G23. And if the party suffers more poll losses, these voices could increase. But Sonia’s outburst was more in protection of son Rahul Gandhi. Unlike in previous sessions, this time Rahul had slowly reconciled to reconsidering his decision to become Congress president, though he wants it to be done through elections. And it was important to nip these voices now.
It was decided that some who are the loyalists would go for the “kill” and without using the word traitors would infer that those who “speak out" were pretty much that. Some said and called those who “benefited by being made ministers and general secretaries" the elephant in the room helping the BJP.
Sonia Gandhi may have set the stage for the elevation of Rahul Gandhi and ensured that all fall in line, but the fissures are not gone. The members of the G23 feel that the CWC meet may have been called as a response to Ghulam Nabi Azad’s letter requesting for organisational elections and Kapil Sibal’s press conference, but the issue is yet to be addressed.
There may be no formal split but the division has intensified. One of the G23 members attending the meeting, though, told News18, “To be fair, Rahul Gandhi was very courteous. In fact, one of the resolutions was reworked with my suggestions."
Another such member said, “Things have come to this: either you are with them, i.e., always praising the party, or you are considered to be with the BJP or being a BJP agent."
Either way, the CWC meet has exposed, rather than put a lid on, the rift within.