Congress leader Jitin Prasada on Saturday said the letter demanding an “active, full-time and visible” leadership in the party was being “misconstrued”, after he came under fire from Gandhi family loyalists for being one of the signatories, PTI reported.

His comments came three days after the Congress unit in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district passed a resolution demanding Prasada’s expulsion. Jitender Prasad, the father of Jitin Prasada, had also contested for the post of Congress chief against Sonia Gandhi in 1999, the resolution said. One leader specifically targeted Prasada, saying he was the only one from Uttar Pradesh to sign the letter. The district unit also called for action against 22 other Congress leaders who questioned the party’s style of functioning and suggested reforms.

“The letter was written with the sole purpose of suggesting how to reinvigorate and revitalise the party, and introspect for galvanising the organisation,” Prasada told PTI in an interview. “It was not to undermine the top leadership. I had stated this at the Congress Working Committee meeting as well. The letter is being misconstrued.”

Prasada dismissed allegations that the intention of the letter from a group of senior leaders including Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, Lok Sabha member Manish Tewari, former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Prithviraj Chavan, former ministers Shashi Tharoor, and Milind Deora, was to target the top leadership. “I have full faith in the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and they have full faith in me,” he added.

The former Union minister said that the resolution passed by the Lakhimpur Kheri unit could have been the “result of local instigation of rival factions”. The resolution addressed to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi called for strict disciplinary action against the signatories to the letter, with special mention of Prasada.

“I bear no grudge against anyone as everyone is part of the Congress family,” the 46-year-old leader said. “The Congress president has said that the matter stands closed and we have to concentrate on fighting the ruling dispensation.”

Congress leader calls for Ghulam Nabi Azad’s expulsion

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Naseeb Pathan, who was a member of the state legislative council between 2004 and 2016, on Friday said Azad should be expelled from the party.

“At the Congress Working Committee meeting, party chief Sonia Gandhi said she was hurt by the letter but now the issue is over,” Pathan said. “Even after that, he [Azad] spoke to the media and posted about it on Facebook the next day. As he has broken the party’s discipline, he should be made ‘azad’ [free] and expelled from the party.”

On Thursday, Azad had called for internal elections and said that a president appointed without one may not even have 1% support of the leaders. Azad had maintained that selected portions of the letter were leaked to the media. He had also offered to resign after alleged critical comments from the party leaders that they had acted at the behest of the saffron party.

The letter

The letter written by 23 Congress leaders to party president Sonia Gandhi says that there has been a “steady decline of the party”, as witnessed in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but no “honest introspection” to analyse the reasons for these massive defeats.

“Even after 14 months of the 2019 electoral verdict, the Congress Party has not undertaken any honest introspection to analyse the reasons for its continued decline,” the letter said. “In order to stem the decline, we have taken upon ourselves to be open and frank so that the Congress Party’s future, which presently is at stake, is not jeopardised any further.”

The letter added that Congress workers on the ground are demoralised because of the uncertainty over the leadership. The Congress is yet to appoint a full-time president since Rahul Gandhi resigned following the 2019 Lok Sabha election debacle.

The letter also said the Congress Working Committee was an ineffective institution and its meetings were purely episodic and reacting to contemporary events, rather than being a deliberative body for setting the agenda and for taking policy decisions.

On Monday, the Congress Working Committee in a resolution said Sonia Gandhi will continue to be the interim president of the party after a marathon virtual meeting. Gandhi’s successor will be chosen within six months.

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