Opposition leaders on Monday took a swipe at the Congress after reports said that Rahul Gandhi accused leaders who questioned the party’s style of functioning and suggested sweeping reforms of colluding with the Bharatiya Janata Party, ANI reported. However, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal, signatories of a letter calling for “a full-time and visible leadership”, clarified that Gandhi never made those remarks.

Earlier in day, the Congress Working Committee met virtually after its interim chief Sonia Gandhi offered to step down and asked the party to find a permanent head.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharti told reporters that the Gandhi-Nehru family’s existence is in crisis and took a jibe at Sonia Gandhi’s Italian roots. “Their political dominance is over, Congress is finished,” she added. “So who stays in what position hardly matters now...Congress should return to Gandhi, the real ‘swadeshi’ Gandhi without any foreign element.”

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia was also accused of colluding with the saffron party when he raised problems. In March, Scindia had quit the Congress and joined the BJP. “Now when leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal are demanding full-time party chief, they’re also being accused of colluding with BJP,” Chouhan added. “No one can save such a party.”

BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav said Rahul Gandhi was obsessed with the saffron party, PTI reported. “So obsessed is Rahul Gandhi with the BJP that he is beginning to see Congress’ veteran leaders as those working in ‘collusion’ with BJP,” he said. “Someone rightly said when one’s destruction is near, one stops using his own mind.”

Former Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan, who was considered close to the Gandhi family before he joined the saffron party last year, said the Opposition party’s internal politics is being played out as a result of their “misdeeds”. He also claimed that the denial by the Congress that Rahul Gandhi made any statement linking the letter’s signatories to the BJP was an “afterthought”.

“Mirror has cracked,” Vadakkan said. “When a mirror cracks, there is no way to put it together. You have to throw it out.”

The former Congress leader said the commitment of the leaders, who are signatories to the letter, is “definitely much more” than Rahul Gandhi. “They are not born in the party,” he added. “They have lived in the party. They have only suggested a course correction and free and fair elections and a leader who is available to lead the party round the clock. “He [Rahul Gandhi] believes if you are not with him, then you are with the BJP, not even the Trinamool Congress or any other party.”

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi also attacked Congress. “Ghulam Nabi Azad used to call us BJP’s ‘B’ team,” he said. “Now, his party’s former chief said he colluded with BJP by signing on the letter. Muslim leaders in Congress, who are wasting time, should think for how long they’ll remain slave of Congress leadership.”

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 Sonia Gandhi to address the leadership question in the party and claimed the uncertainty around it “has demoralised party workers and weakened the institution”. The signatories of the letter included former chief ministers such as Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Prithviraj Chavan, former ministers Shashi Tharoor, and Milind Deora and Jitin Prasada.

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.