“We are a large family. We have differences and different views on many occasions. But at the end we come together, as one," Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, according to party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, said in her concluding remarks at the Congress Working Committee meeting on Monday.
Gandhi, who has been in the eye of a storm following the letter written by 23 of her party colleagues calling for "a full-time, visible leadership", has reportedly said that though she was “hurt” by the remarks made off-late, she bore no ill-will towards her dissenting party colleagues.
Gandhi, who had offered to resign after the dissenting letter was made public, in the CWC said that she would remain the interim president till an All India Congress Committee (AICC) session is called and the next full-time president elected. The party has reportedly set a six-month deadline to finish the process of electing its next chief.
While Gandhi made clear her reluctance in continuing to occupy the chair of the interim president while there was an increasing clamour for bringing in a full-time party president, the CWC headed by her at the same time also sent a stern warning to all its members stating explicitly that dissenting views were not to be made public.
“CWC makes it clear that no one will be or can be permitted to undermine or weaken the party and its leadership at this juncture,” read the CWC resolution that was passed at the end of a 7-hour marathon meeting, adding that “the CWC inner-party issues cannot be deliberated through the media or in public fora. The CWC urges and advises all concerned to raise such issues only in party fora in the interest of propriety and discipline.”
The resolution also made it clear that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were the top two leaders of the party as far the question of its leadership was concerned.
While the resolution commended Sonia Gandhi for “her leadership [which] has rankled and embarrassed those occupying the highest offices in this government,” it praised her son Rahul Gandhi for leading “the fight against the government from the front.”
The CWC statement went on to add that, “reflecting the overwhelming view and desire of the rank and file of the Congress, unanimously resolved to strengthen the hands of Smt Sonia Gandhi and Shri Rahul Gandhi in every possible way.”
The highly-charged CWC meeting witnessed an outpour from all the nearly 50 Congress leaders, including its four chief ministers, of support in favour of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who were urged to lead the party in the coming years. From Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to AICC general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge, the support for the Gandhis was as overwhelming as the criticism of the 23 “dissenters” whom Congress leader Kumari Selja alleged were helping BJP weaken the Congress.
In his brief moving intervention at the CWC, Rahul Gandhi is believed to have questioned the timing of the letter, which was issued on August 7 when the political tussle between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot was still going on, and Sonia Gandhi was in the hospital. According to media reports, Azad, who is one of the signatories of the letter, read out the contents of the letter, saying the leaders were not questioning Sonia Gandhi but only calling for an organisational rehaul in the larger interest of the party.
Echoes of the fiery CWC were also heard on Twitter with former minister Kapil Sibal, another signatory to the letter, publicly questioning Rahul's alleged remarks linking him to BJP. However, Sibal later withdrew his tweet after stating that Rahul Gandhi had personally informed him that he had never made the "colluding with the BJP" remark.