Sonia Gandhi is Saturday holding a meeting of some of the 23 senior Congress leaders who wrote to her four months ago seeking sweeping changes in the party’s organisation and an effective, full-time leadership.
Ashok Gehlot, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, B S Hooda, Ambika Soni and P Chidambaram arrived at Gandhi’s residence at 10, Janpath, this morning, reported news agency ANI. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi is expected to be part of the meeting as well.
The meeting, which will be the first attempt at rapprochement from both sides, was arranged after 7-8 key leaders from among the 23 met several times in Delhi over the past week. A list of potential attendees was sent to Sonia, out of which a select group will meet her, sources told The Indian Express.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath is learnt to be coordinating the meeting. Nath has met Sonia twice after she returned from Goa after a fortnight’s break earlier this month. “The senior-most leadership of the Congress will attend the meeting to resolve organisational matters and find a way forward,” a senior Congress leader said.
On the eve of the crucial meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and a group of leaders who had been demanding reforms in the party, the Congress on Friday asserted that 99.99 per cent of leaders and workers believe that Rahul Gandhi is the right person to lead the party.
Stating that the next party president will be chosen by the electoral college comprising AICC members, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said at an AICC press meet, “It is my belief and the belief of the overwhelming majority, 99.99 per cent of the Congress leaders and workers that Rahul Gandhi is the right person to lead the Congress party and to take on the Modi government.”
“Yes the election of the Congress president will be held as per the electoral college…but we certainly feel and many people like me feel that Rahul Gandhi should lead the Congress party from the front. The final call will be his,” he said.
As for Saturday’s meeting, he said there is no dissension in the party. “This is not a meet of any specific group of leaders. This is not a meet of any dissenters or rebels because we consider each leader, each worker of the Congress party as part of the family. And addressing the issues raised by some of the senior leaders, friends and colleagues, the Congress party had already decided to hold the election for the post of president of the Congress. That process is currently underway.”
The Indian Express had on August 23 reported on the unprecedented letter written by the 23 senior leaders, including five former chief ministers, many Congress Working Committee (CWC) members, sitting MPs, and several former union ministers. But at its meeting two days later, the CWC neither discussed the contents of the letter nor gave any specific commitments on the way forward. Instead, member after member attacked the 23 rebels, questioned and criticised the intent and timing of their letter, and pledged loyalty to the Gandhi family.
Besides calling for a wide ranging reforms, decentralisation of power, empowerment of state units, elections to the Congress organisation at all levels from the block to the CWC, and the urgent constitution of a central parliamentary board, the leaders had argued that uncertainty over the leadership and the “drift” in the party had demoralised workers and weakened the Congress.