The Congress on Monday dismissed a claim made by suspended leader Sanjay Jha that nearly 100 people from the party have written to interim chief Sonia Gandhi, calling for a change in political leadership. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused Jha of acting at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Earlier in the day, Jha had tweeted that the 100 party leaders, including MPs, were “distressed at the state of affairs within the party” and had therefore, wrote to Gandhi asking for change in political leadership and transparent elections in the Congress Working Committee. “Watch this space,” Jha had added.

But Surjewala said no such letter was written by any member of the Congress and called this a “misinformation campaign” engineered by the BJP. “‘Special Misinformation Group on Media-TV Debate Guidance’ in its whatsapp of today directed to run the story of a non existent letter of Congress leaders to divert attention from Facebook-BJP links,” he tweeted. “Of course, BJP stooges have started acting upon it.”

Surjewala was referring to a report by The Wall Street Journal, which alleged that Facebook, the largest social media company in the world, had deliberately ignored hate speech made by BJP leaders.

Earlier this month, the Congress had announced that Sonia Gandhi will continue as the interim president of the party till a procedure was implemented to elect her successor. She took over as the party chief after her son Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post in July as he held himself accountable for the party’s Lok Sabha election debacle and maintained that accountability would be critical for the party’s future growth. The Congress managed to win only 52 of 543 parliamentary seats in the Lok Sabha elections in May last year.

The party has maintained that electing a new president has not been possible due to the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the infection. Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor has also repeatedly called for elections to choose the next successor. On August 9, he had said the process of finding a new full-time party president had to be sped up amid the public perception that it was “adrift and rudderless”.

Sanjay Jha’s suspension

On July 14, Congress had suspended Jha for “anti-party activities and breach of discipline”. He was removed as the party’s spokesperson on June 18, almost 10 days after he criticised and questioned the party’s leadership in an opinion piece published in The Times of India. In his piece, Jha said that the party was heading to political obsolescence.

After his suspension, Jha had said his loyalty is towards the party’s ideology, not any individual or family. He had added that his big blunder was fighting for internal democracy and suggesting changes to revive the Congress.

In an article in last month, Jha had said that his Congress colleagues, who have criticised him for speaking out against the problems within the party, had not bothered to understand his views. “But they will help the Congress tremendously by reading My Experiments With Truth and Discovery of India,” he wrote. “It is never too late to make a new beginning.”

His recent comments came a week after ousted Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot’s meeting with the top leadership in Delhi led to a truce between the rival factions in the party and signalled an end to the month-long political turmoil in the state. Pilot had told reporters that the grievances raised by him and the rebel MLAs were related to the government’s functioning and workers’ participation.