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In Bid to Soothe Ruffled Feathers, Sonia & Rahul Gandhi Assure 'Group of 23' about Addressing Their Concerns

File photo of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi (Reuters)

File photo of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi (Reuters)

However, the rift in the party is unlikely to end soon, with sources saying the group of 23 is upset that no one bothered to address the concerns raised by them.

After the fireworks came the balm. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have called up many of the “group of 23", who wrote a letter calling for organisational change, to assure them they would be forgiven and that some of their concerns would be addressed. But what the group of 23 is looking at is if they would find a place in the organisational changes of the party.

A miss would confirm their apprehension that they are being witch-hunted. First is expected the appointment of the committee to aid and advise Sonia Gandhi. The letter writers are hoping that at least one of them will be a part of it.

The most likely member to top it is KC Venugopal, who is the organisation secretary. The rise of KC, as he is called, has been meteoric. Hand-picked by Rahul Gandhi, he is now the go-to person for all crisis management. Venugopal now handles the organisation affairs, replacing Ashok Gehlot who has since moved to Rajasthan.

Venugopal’s rise also reflects the Gandhi family’s faith in party leaders from Kerala, specially now since Rahul Gandhi himself is a MP from the state. A basketball player, Venugopal reached his goal with his proximity to AK Antony and now the Gandhis. A minister and then the state in-charge of Karnatalka, Venugopal has the credentials which the Gandhis think would work for them.

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But then Venugopal has his fair share of controversies. He is one of the accused in a rape case from his home state and his critics in the party often throw this at him. The perception that he has the full support of Rahul Gandhi might make his task a little easier. However, taking senior leaders along would be as much of a challenge for Venugopal as it would be for the Congress president.

The committee is also expected to have a regional balance and to get the equations right. It could have a few younger faces like Rajiv Satav, Jitin Prasada and Gaurav Gogoi. Besides this, the other demand of the group of 23 was that the parliamentary board must be reconstituted. The board has no real business or strategy in place yet and the Congress parliamentary party meeting is more of a monologue from Sonia Gandhi with no discussions.

Sources say that the party plans to change this in order to enable leaders, at least during parliament sessions, to meet and discuss issues. Again, it could have a mix of those who are trusted and reliable. Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, Gogoi and Manickam Tagore could be some names considered.

But the rift in the party is unlikely to end soon. Sources say the group of 23 is upset that no one bothered to address the concerns raised by them.

“When they say we could have raised it in a party forum, we want to know what is that forum? Show us one thing we wrote that is wrong. Why couldn’t this be discussed instead of why we wrote the letter? Why didn’t they call a meeting as soon they received the letter?” said one of the leaders.

It is clear that committees will not be able to calm ruffled feathers. The disgruntled leaders stood their ground at the CWC and plan to hold more meetings in future.

“Not everything is about leaving the party and joining the BJP. The Congress belongs to all and should be open to all," added the leader.

The party is looking at a generational shift ahead of elections within six months. But the storm is not yet over.

first published:August 26, 2020, 19:31 IST