Sonia Gandhi calls Congress strategy meet tomorrow, dissenters to attend
In her upcoming meetings, Sonia Gandhi is expected to discuss the party’s dismal show in the assembly polls in Bihar and by-polls to 58 seats in 11 states apart from the setbacks in the local bodies’ elections in Rajasthan, a state ruled by the Congress, ane Telangana, Goa, Kerala and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has called a meeting of senior leaders, including a few from the group of 23 dissenters, on Saturday to discuss the party’s strategy for the upcoming assembly elections besides the ongoing farmers’ agitation and the government’s decision not to hold the winter session of Parliament, people familiar with the development said.
A Congress functionary said the first in-person meeting between the party chief and senior leaders during the Covid-19 pandemic could extend to Sunday as well. Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are also expected to attend the meeting.
Among the dissenters, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, his deputy Anand Sharma and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda have been called for the meeting to be held at Sonia Gandhi’s 10, Janpath residence. So far, all party meetings during the pandemic have been held virtually.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has also been invited to the meeting, said to have been called at the insistence of Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath who had met Sonia Gandhi last week and also interacted with some of the dissenters.
Another dissenter and former union minister Shashi Tharoor will also meet the Congress president as he had sought an appointment with her to discuss the local bodies elections in Kerala, the functionary quoted above said.
He said party leaders from states going to polls early next year had offered their suggestions on potential alliances and other election-related matters to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the past few weeks.
Rahul Gandhi had told them that he would convey their suggestions and proposals to the Congress president as he cannot take such important decisions, added the functionary.
Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Puducherry and Assam in March-April next year.
Sonia Gandhi returned to Delhi on December 6 after staying in Goa for over a fortnight following doctors’ advice to shift out of the national capital because of heavy pollution and poor air quality that had aggravated a chest infection.
In her upcoming meetings, she is expected to discuss the party’s dismal show in the assembly polls in Bihar and by-polls to 58 seats in 11 states apart from the setbacks in the local bodies’ elections in Rajasthan, a state ruled by the Congress, ane Telangana, Goa, Kerala and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam.
Apart from seeking suggestions on the party’s strategy for the upcoming assembly polls, she will also discuss with her party colleagues the ongoing farmers’ agitation over three new farm laws enacted in September this year and also the government’s decision to skip the winter session of parliament and club it with the budget session that begins at the end of January, the functionary said.
A second Congress functionary said Sonia Gandhi was also keen to see an immediate end to the ongoing internal crisis in the party and discuss the steps needed to strengthen the organisation in the wake of a series of electoral setbacks.
She wants to bring all the warring leaders together and end the current impasse in the party. “She wants all the leaders to work in close coordination with Rahul Gandhi in strengthening the party,” he said.
The second functionary added that the Congress president did not want to isolate the dissenters pushing for an organisational overhaul and internal elections from top to bottom.
The group of 23 signatories, also known as G-23, had written to the Congress president in August, seeking a full-time and active leadership and introspection behind the “steady decline” of the 135-year-old organisation while outlining an 11-point action plan.
Apart from Azad, Sibal, Sharma, Tharoor and Hooda, the other key signatories included Mukul Wasnik, Jitin Prasada, Manish Tewari and Prithiviraj Chavan.
The dissenters reiterated their demand following the party’s poor show in recent elections.
However, there has been a visible softening of their stand on both sides after senior leader Ahmed Patel’s death on November 25.
The second functionary quoted above said the party’s central election authority (CEA) was in the process of finalising the schedule for the organisational elections. Once that is done, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) will meet to ratify it after which the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session will be held.
He said the CEA, mandated under the party constitution to hold the organisational polls, had in its last meeting decided to restrict the electoral college to the AICC members and not include co-opted constituents. It is also in the process of preparing digital identity cards for the AICC members to use them in case the session is held virtually. The functionary said the organisational elections and the AICC session are expected to be held by February.