Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday met a group of party leaders who had written to her a few months ago seeking a complete overhaul of the organisation. This is the first time that Gandhi is meeting Congress leaders in person since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Rahul Gandhi is also attending the meeting.
The meeting also includes some of Sonia Gandhi’s close associates and is the first effort by the Congress leadership for a reproachment with those who raised questions over the leadership. Those attending the meeting from among the letter-writers are Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, deputy leader of the party in the upper House Anand Sharma, former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan, and MPs Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Shashi Tharoor.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and senior leader P Chidambaram are also part of the meeting, the sources said. Among Sonia loyalists at the discussion that will include a range of issues, primarily organisational elections, are AK Antony, Ambika Soni, Ashok Gehlot and Harish Rawat, besides Pawan Bansal.
Sources said a number of organisational issues is likely to be discussed at the meeting. The Congress has already decided to hold elections for the post of Congress president and that process is underway.
Sonia Gandhi will be meeting a host of other leaders in the coming days, the sources said.
Congress on Friday had downplayed any internal dissensions and said Rahul Gandhi was the “right person" to lead the party. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party stood united and together as a family and there are no dissensions pending after the announcement of elections to the party chief’s post.
Earlier in August, some party leaders had demanded an active leadership and maintained that Gandhis will always be a “guiding force". Sources said among those slated to meet Gandhi are Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, the party’s deputy leader in the upper house Anand Sharma, former chief ministers Bhupinder Hooda and Prithviraj Chavan, Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Shashi Tharoor.
Surjewala, however, downplayed the meet of dissenters or rebels. “Congress workers and the electoral college including the AICC members of the party will choose a person best suited for the post,” he said. Rahul Gandhi is also set to attend the meeting with the G-23 ‘rebels’, the sources confirmed.
“This is not a meet of any special group of leaders. This is not a meet of any dissenters or rebels. Because we consider each leader and each worker as part of the family," he added.
The meeting is seen as Congress’ move towards reconciliation after months of infighting. A core group of five or six leaders is likely to represent the wider concerns of the 23 leaders who wrote the letter in August.
Meanwhile, senior RJD leader and veteran Bihar socialist Shivanand Tiwary called Rahul Gandhi a “reluctant and uninspiring" leader and urged Sonia Gandhi to overcome “putra moh" (weakness for her son) in deciding her political successor.