Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Thursday backed former parliamentarian Sandeep Dikshit’s comments calling for elections to choose the party’s next leader.

In an interview to The Indian Express the day before, Dikshit had accused senior Congress leaders of failing to find a new president because they were “scared who will bell the cat”. Rahul Gandhi had stepped down after the Lok Sabha election debacle in May, and former President Sonia Gandhi took over as interim chief on August 10.

“There are at least six-eight members who are capable of leading the party,” Dikshit told the newspaper. “Sometimes you want inaction because you don’t want a certain action to happen. I’m actually feeling rather dismayed by our senior leaders. They must come up,” he added. “ I think it is time for them to come up and go the extra mile for their party.”

The former MP said leaders such as Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, AK Antony, P Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid and Ahmed Patel can “intellectually contribute” to the selection process at the central and state level. “All of them have done great for the Congress,” Dikshit added. “They are in the evening of their politics, they probably have another four or five years to go. I think this is a time for them to intellectually contribute.”

In a series of tweets, Tharoor said Dikshit’s comments reflect what “dozens of party leaders are saying privately”, and appealed to the Congress Working Committee – the party’s highest decision-making body – to hold elections.

“Some have asked who should vote and for what,” said the Thiruvananthapuram MP. “I was referring to my earlier call eight months ago for elections among the 10,000 party workers who constitute the ‘All India Congress Committee plus PCC delegates’ list. These should be for the elected seats in the Congress Working Committee as well as for the party presidency.”

Former Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam dismissed Tharoor and Dikshit’s call for new leadership, calling it an “inane discussion”. He said only Rahul Gandhi could save the party. “No one from outside the [Gandhi] family can lead Congress at this juncture,” he tweeted. “Other leaders are just a group leader and such leaders at the helm will encourage more groupism. Period!”

This is the latest example of the disarray in the Congress. Earlier this week, former Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken castigated party colleague Milind Deora for praising the Aam Aadmi Party. In response, Deora accused Maken of undermining former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s legacy and her “stellar performance”. Sandeep Dikshit is Sheila Dikshit’s son.

Last Friday, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had threatened to join a public agitation against his own party’s government in Madhya Pradesh. The threat is seen as an outcome of a personal rivalry between Scindia and the state’s Chief Minister Kamal Nath. The day before, Arjun Modhwadia, a former Gujarat Congress president, sharply criticised the party’s central leadership for being “rarely available to senior state leaders”. After the AAP’s victory in the Delhi elections on February 11, Delhi Mahila Congress chief and party spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee had lashed out at former Union minister P Chidambaram for celebrating the defeat Bharatiya Janata Party’s defeat. She asked Chidambaram if the party had outsourced the task of defeating the saffron party to others.

Earlier this week, former Union minister Manish Tewari had argued that the party needs to think about reorienting its economic philosophy which continues to be “fairly socialistic” and bring clarity on the question of secularism and its brand of nationalism.

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The Daily Fix: The disarray in the Congress presents a threat to Indian democracy