CONGRESS … Sonia says she wants to quit; Loyalists led by Dr Singh and Antony says, “No, please stay on’

NEW DELHI: The old guard in the Congress came to the stout defence of the leadership of the Nehru family on the Congress party amid dramatic scenes at the virtual meet of the Congress Working Committee meet on Monday.

A letter by a set of leaders seeking a full-time, visible leadership for the Congress party first provoked Sonia Gandhi into saying she wanted to exit from the interim president post at the earliest and the leaders should start looking for an alternative.

The letter provoked Rahul Gandhi the most. A visibly agitated Rahul Gandhi sharply criticised those who sent the letter to the leadership at this critical juncture for the party. He alleged that these men were “working in cahoots with the BJP”. Asked he: “Why are you attacking the Congress when it is at its weakest, when it is battling serious issues in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and when the Congress president is unwell?

The signatories to the letter were Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Shashi Tharoor, Prithviraj Chavan and Anand Sharma, among others. They had nevertheless said they favoured a collective leadership for the party including the Nehru family members. This was interpreted to mean that they wanted the Nehru family as only a part of a larger leadership frame.

The loyalists led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Defence minister AK Antony, both strong Sonia loyalists, pleaded with Sonia Gandhi to continue in leadership, and if she was bent on quitting, then Rahul Gandhi be made the president. Singh urged Sonia to continue in the post until a full AICC session is held, at which the process to find a new leader could begin. 

Curiously, Sonia-associate Ahmed Patel urged Rahul Gandhi to take over as party president. He said senior leaders should have avoided writing the letter to Sonia Gandhi. To accusations from Rahul Gandhi that those who wrote the letter were colluding with the BJP, Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We shall resign if we are found having done so.”

A group of Congress workers staged a demonstration outside AICC headquarters here, demanding that no one outside the Nehru family should lead the party. This is seen as an orchestrated campaign for continuation of the family at the apex. 
BC leader from Maharashtra, Mukul Wasnik, who was among the leaders who wrote the letter, apologized later for the action. —IHN-NN


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