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Congress dissenters chart next step

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Sep 13, 2020 02:41 AM IST

A leader present in the meeting, who did not want to be named, said they were not satisfied with the changes as these “do not in any way” address the concerns raised by them in their August 7 letter to Sonia Gandhi that triggered a flutter.

A day after Congress president Sonia Gandhi carried out a major organisational reshuffle, some of the 23 party leaders who earlier called for sweeping reforms appeared “unhappy and disappointed” and met on Saturday to discuss their next course of action, people familiar with the developments said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party leader Rahul Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.(ANI Archive)
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party leader Rahul Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.(ANI Archive)

A leader present in the meeting, who did not want to be named, said they were not satisfied with the changes as these “do not in any way” address the concerns raised by them in their August 7 letter to Sonia Gandhi that triggered a flutter.

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“The reshuffle is disappointing. We are displeased and unhappy. It does not reflect any attempt on the part of the leadership to take the party on the revival path...,” he added.

In their letter, the 23 signatories called for full-time and active leadership and introspection behind the “steady decline” of the 135-year-old organisation while outlining an 11-point action plan. Those who signed the letter included Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, Jitin Prasada, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari.

Saturday’s meeting, the leader quoted above said, was attended by 18 of the 23 letter-writers.

“The fallout of this futile exercise of reshuffle has been such that there were many new participants in the meeting today. We will reveal their names at the appropriate time,” he added.

HT couldn’t independently confirm the names of the attendees or the number.

The letter-writers, who drew flak from the party, also demanded an election process for members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body, and not nomination, as announced on Friday.

Soon after, on Friday, Kapil Sibal said: “The wisdom of great minds has prevailed. Nomination seems to be the rule and election is not even an exception.”

The rejig bore a clear imprint of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi as many leaders (including Randeep Singh Surjewala, Ajay Maken and Jitendra Singh) considered close to him were appointed general secretaries. The reconstituted CWC, too, is dominated by those close to Rahul Gandhi.

The party removed some key faces, including senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, as general secretaries. Both of them were, however, retained in CWC.

Of the letter-writers, apart from Azad, three others (Mukul Wasnik, Anand Sharma and Jitin Prasada) who were already part of CWC, have been retained in the body — an indication, according to some functionaries, that the party leadership was trying to strike a conciliatory note.

The letter-writers have decided, for the time being, that they will focus on the monsoon session of Parliament beginning Monday, and try to corner Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government over several issues.

“Once the monsoon session is over and the Congress president returns after undergoing health check-up, we will once again raise our issues,” the person cited in the first instance said.

Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Rahul Gandhi, left for the US on Saturday for a routine health check-up.

Surjewala, who has been a gainer in Friday’s reshuffle, separately said Sonia Gandhi formed a five-member Central Election Authority (CEA) and set in motion the process of elections to the party president’s post.

At an online press conference, he also commented on the organisational changes, saying they were part of a continuous process. “A lot of new people have got a chance, many old people of the party have got a chance, a lot of colleagues who were already there have got more strength to continue serving the organisation.”

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