Dissension within the Congress over the holding of elections in the party came to the fore at the meeting of the all-powerful working committee on Friday with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot slamming some of the 'letter-writers' for demanding organisational elections and Anand Sharma hitting back, calling the remarks "disrespectful", sources said.
Sources said Gehlot attacked some of the 'letter-writers', saying that after being in the CWC for decades without fighting any election, they have suddenly woken up to the need of holding elections to the party's highest decision-making body. As heated exchanges continued, Rahul Gandhi intervened to placate the leaders, saying he understood the sentiment behind the remarks by both leaders and respected their views. The issue should be resolved by holding elections and the party should move on and focus on issues concerning the people, the farmers agitation to start with, he said.
Gehlot also said instead of bickering with each other, the Congress leaders should concentrate on fighting the BJP-led Centre and leave party matters to the Congress president and her wisdom. The Rajasthan chief minister also criticised some Congress leaders for making remarks against the party in the media, thereby dividing the cadres instead of uniting them, and said some leaders have never done grassroots politics but got top party positions without contesting for them.
Without taking names, Gehlot made oblique references to senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal, who have been at the forefront of seeking organisational overhaul. As Gehlot and Sharma sparred, senior party leader Ambika Soni and some others supported the veteran Rajasthan leader and said the remarks were emotive but not intended to target any individual.
Asked to comment on the verbal spat, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and K C Venugopal said there was no dissent. "There was no dissent at the meeting," Surjewala said.
He added that leaders like Azad, Sharma or P Chidambaram were not dissenters but senior members of the Congress and there was unanimity in the party on the issue of election schedule. "There was no argument on the election schedule issue. The meeting was very fruitful. There is no dispute over conducting organisational elections," Venugopal said.
He said a little clarity was needed on whether the CWC election can be held before or after the Congress president's election. "We have to study the party's constitution for this matter. The practice is to hold Congress president's election first and then the CWC election," he said.