Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has set up three separate committees to discuss policy matters related to foreign, economic affairs, and national security. Former Prime Minister and senior party leader Manmohan Singh is a part of all three committees.
The Congress president has named three people who have recently raised concerns about the general operations within the party, with some of them even calling for a change in leadership.
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram will be a part of the economic affairs panel along with party colleagues Mallikarjun Kharge and Digvijaya Singh. The committee’s convenor will be Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh.
On November 18, in an interview, Chidambaram had said that the results of the recently concluded Bihar Assembly elections and bye-polls in several states show that the party either has no organisational presence left on the ground or has weakened considerably.
The panel on foreign affairs will be comprised of Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor, Saptagiri Ulaka, and Salman Khurshid, who will be the panel’s convenor. On Tuesday, Sharma went against the party’s stand in favour of India not joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and said it was “unfortunate and ill-advised”.
In August, at least 23 party leaders, including Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Prithviraj Chavan and Milind Deora, had written to Gandhi, asking for a complete transformation of the organisation. Tharoor had also called for holding elections to appoint the party chief. He had, however, maintained that the elections should be held if Rahul Gandhi does not wish to take over as the party president.
On Tuesday, Salman Khurshid, without taking any names, criticised “party colleagues who suffer periodic pangs of anxiety”, in a Facebook post. “...The constant refrain of some persons should not be of aimless introspection but for reaffirmation of fundamental principles we believe in,” he wrote.
In the third committee on national security, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has been named. Azad had in August called for internal elections and said that a president appointed without one may not even have 1% support of the leaders.
This development comes at a time when several Congress leaders have expressed the need for introspection about the party’s repeated poor performance in elections. However, while a few senior politicians in the party have criticised its functioning, some have defended the leadership of the Gandhis, triggering infighting.
A controversy began after Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal in an interview on Monday said that people “do not consider Congress an alternative”. He also blamed the leadership for not recognising the matters ailing the party, despite knowing about them.
Following Sibal’s comments, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said his remarks about the party’s internal matters hurt the sentiments of workers across the country. On Wednesday, Congress Leader of the House in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury advised Sibal to join another party or set up a new one.