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Rahul Gandhi Denies 'Collusion' Charge as Sibal Walks Back on Furious Tweet, Azad Clarifies Resign Remark

File photo of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)

File photo of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)

Kapil Sibal said he was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him, and deleted his earlier tweet hitting back at the former Congress chief.

Kapil Sibal on Monday deleted his tweet in which he hit back at Rahul Gandhi for his reported accusation that senior Congress leaders who called for a change in party leadership were “dissenters” and “colluding with the BJP” after being told that Gandhi never said what was attributed to him.

“Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him. I therefore withdraw my tweet,” Sibal tweeted, soon after Congress spokesperson also issued a denial stating that Gandhi had not stated or even alluded to such a charge during the Congress Working Committee meeting.

Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Azad, a Gandhi loyalist, had said he would quit from the Congress party if the charges could be proven. Howver, he later clarified that he was referring to statements by some other Congress leaders, and not Rahul Gandhi.

Sibal and Azad were among the 23 top leaders to demand a "full-time, visible leadership" in a letter to Sonia Gandhi sent on Saturday.

In his tweet, Sibal had listed his contributions to the party and his track record to hit back at Rahul Gandhi in his tweet. “…Succeeded in Rajasthan High Court defending the Congress Party… Defending party in Manipur to bring down BJP Govt. Last 30 years have never made a statement in favour of BJP on any issue. Yet “we are colluding with the BJP!” Sibal had said in the now-deleted tweet posted in the middle of the CWC meeting.

He posted the tweet after reports from the meeting said Rahul Gandhi accused the signatories of the letter of working in cahoots with the ruling BJP. Gandhi reportedly asked why the letter attacked the Congress when it was at its weakest, when it was battling crises in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and when the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) was unwell.

"For whom was this done," he had questioned, adding that the letter had "hurt" his mother.

Azad later tweeted that it was wrongly reported that he told Rahul Gandhi to prove that the letter written was in collusion with BJP. “Let me make it very clear that Shri Rahul Gandhi has neither in CWC nor outside said that this letter was written at the behest of BJP," he wrote on Twitter.

"What I said was, yesterday some Congress person had said that we did it at behest of BJP and in that context I said, 'It is most unfortunate that some colleagues (outside CWC) have accused us of collusion with BJP, and if those people can prove this allegation, I will resign'," he added.

Sonia Gandhi at the start of the CWC meeting offered to step down as interim president and asked the top decision making body to elect a new president. Her decision to quit follows the unprecedented letter written by 26 top Congress leaders, including MPs and former Union Ministers, complaining about a drift in the party.

The explosive letter spoke about "uncertainty" over the leadership and stressed that the Gandhis will always be an integral part of a "collective leadership".

Apart from Sibal, other senior leaders who were signatories to the letter were Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan and Vivek Tankha.

Her call to select a new party president led to pleas for her to continue in the post from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as well as attacks on those who wrote the letter from other. Fromer defence minister AK Antony said, "More than letter, contents of the letter were cruel." He also spoke about "the sacrifices of Sonia Gandhi," according to sources, and urged Rahul Gandhi to take over as Congress president.