The scheduled Congress Working Committee meeting on Monday is likely to deliberate on the internal turmoil of the party about selecting a new president, reported NDTV. Ahead of the meeting, reports suggested that interim party chief Sonia Gandhi is in favour of a new leader and has offered to step down.

The Congress is in the middle of an internal crisis, which was triggered after at least 23 party leaders wrote to Gandhi demanding a complete overhaul of the organisation. The letter, which was written on August 15, urged Gandhi to address the leadership question in the party and claimed the uncertainty around it “has demoralised party workers and weakened the institution”.

Leaders at the CWC meeting may request Sonia Gandhi to remain as the party’s chief or ask former president Rahul Gandhi to take over the post, according to The Times of India. However, the two are likely to refuse the offers.

“This has been in offing for a while,” an unidentified senior Congress leader told Mint. “If you see over the last one month or so people have been vocal, including in meeting with Congress president, about the need for a systemic overhaul both in terms of organisation and political narrative against the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

The signatories of the letter calling for a complete overhaul of the organisation reportedly included former chief ministers such as Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Prithviraj Chavan, former ministers Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, and Milind Deora and Jitin Prasada.

Refuting speculation, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Sunday dismissed claims that she has stepped down from the post of the interim president. Sonia Gandhi had assumed charge as the Congress interim president last year, after the resignation of Rahul Gandhi, who quit as party chief in July 2019 after its crushing defeat in national elections.

Also read:

  1. Sonia Gandhi has not resigned from post of Congress president, clarifies Randeep Surjewala
  2. Congress leaders write to Sonia Gandhi demanding radical changes in party: Reports

Leaders praise Gandhi family, ask them to take charge

Several senior Congress leaders have thrown their weights behind Sonia Gandhi ahead of the party’s crucial meeting. These include chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Amarinder Singh, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh, DK Shivakumar and Sachin Pilot, whose rebellion last month had brought the Congress government in Rajasthan to the brink of collapse.

Gehlot said that the news of 23 senior Congress leaders writing a letter to the party chief was unfortunate and asserted that Sonia Gandhi should continue to lead the party “at this crucial juncture”. However, he suggested that if Sonia Gandhi had already made a firm decision to step down, then Rahul Gandhi should take over the post.

Digvijaya Singh said he cannot imagine the Congress without Nehru-Gandhi family and that an ordinary worker of the party would not accept anyone else as the party president. He also seconded what Gehlot said that Rahul Gandhi should take up the mantle if Sonia Gandhi wished to step down.

Kamal Nath said it was absurd that Sonia Gandhi’s leadership was being questioned. “I have had the privilege of working with Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. I have also had the privilege of serving the Congress Party as a Member of Parliament for almost 40 years and as the longest-serving Member of Parliament,” he tweeted. “I have been the general secretary of the Congress Party for many years. We must not forget that in spite of the canard against Smt. Sonia Gandhi, she led the Congress Party to victory in 2004 and made Atal Bihari Vajpayee sit at home.”

Sachin Pilot said both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi know what it means to sacrifice for the greater good of the people and the party. “Its now time to build consensus and consolidate,” he tweeted. “Our future is stronger when we’re united. Most Congress workers would like to see Rahul-ji take over and lead the party.”

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh defended the Gandhi family and said electoral defeats could not be the “yardstick for leadership change”. Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar also supported Sonia Gandhi and said she had “saved the party” during times of crisis. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah have also come out in support of the Gandhis.