In good times and in recent past, Ghulam Nabi Azad's residence in south Delhi had been the go to place to sort and diffuse the crisis the Congress party faced. As leader of party in Rajya Sabha and also former UP incharge, Azad was one of the main trouble shooters for the party. But as cars drove in to his home a little after the Congress Working Committee meeting ended, it was another kind of crisis that need to be diffused. And this one involved Azad himself.
Some of the signatories to the letter bomb were seen at Azad's residence. Mukul Wasnik, Shashi Tharoor, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari met at Azad's home. Sources say they were briefed on what happened at the CWC earlier in the day. But the seriousness of the attack they faced at the meeting was not lost on them.
Sources say that senior leaders took on the letter writers at the CWC, asking them what their real intention was in writing the note. They were asked as to why couldn’t they discuss this at party meetings. When they replied that meetings were not held, immediately a list was taken out and the details of the number of meetings called by Sonia Gandhi were read out.
Despite the denial, three members who attended the meeting confirmed to News18.com that Rahul Gandhi questioned the timing of the letter. “Why was this letter written when my mother was in hospital? ..and won't such a letter help the BJP?”
Ahmed Patel, KC Venugopal, AK Antony, Manmohan Singh and other seniors were angry and questioned the need to write this letter. Ambika Soni went to the extent of suggesting that action must be taken against the dissenters.
Sources say that at the meeting at Azad's residence, some raised the concern that despite Sonia Gandhi saying they should be forgiven and move on, the reality is that this is unlikely to happen.
Some call it a cleaning up and purging action by handful of powerful chiefs in the party. The letter is unlikely to have been leaked by the letter writers. The leak, which is believed to have come from the other side, suited the purpose of those who want to keep the Gandhis powerful. It's demolished the rebellion for now that has made the Gandhis even more powerful. But what's more important, it has paved the way for Rahul Gandhi to take over in future with his own team.
It's an open secret that Rahul has not been comfortable working with some who were part of his mother's team. His earlier attempts to ease them out was unsuccessful. He and his sister can never get over the fact that many of these seniors did not stand by junior Gandhi during his campaign against PM Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. After Monday's fireworks at the CWC, the issue seems settled. The letter writers are unlikely to be accepted and their political growth is likely to be in jeopardy.
So what's at stake for them? Most of those who wrote the letter have been feeling left out. With a new crop of leaders coming up, those who were powerful once and were crisis managers like Anand Sharma, Azad, Wasnik are now being left out.
Shashi Tharoor has often faced suspicion within his own party for charting his own course and also enjoying PM’s support on key issues. Jitin Prasada, Milind Deora once very close to Rahul Gandhi are now out in the lurch. The 'class of 23', as they are being called, have been almost wiped out. This new age plan has made Gandhis more powerful and also sent the message that "eight of you are either with them or you are out in the cold".
In the next few days, the party will see some sweeping organisational changes. New faces and leaders will come up. But with the turn of events, one thing becomes clear — the Congress cannot look beyond the Gandhis.