New Delhi: Drama of Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s offer to resign over the party’s drubbing in Lok Sabha election and its rejection by top party leaders continued throughout Saturday.
While the Congress Working Committee (CWC) , chaired by the party president himself, rejected his offer to quit and authorised him to overhaul the organisation, Mr Gandhi reportedly remained “adamant” to step down and make way for a new chief from outside the Gandhi family.
“We have to continue our fight. I am and will remain a disciplined soldier of the Congress and continue to fight fearlessly. But I do not want to remain the party president. It is not necessary that the president should be from the Gandhi family,” Mr Gandhi was quoted as having told the party’s 52-member highest decision-making body.
The meeting was attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmo-han Singh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and chief ministers of three party-ruled states — Punjab, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh — and of the Union Territory of Puducherry.
As confusion and drama continued over Mr Gandhi’s proposed resignation, the CWC adopted a resolution not merely “rejecting” his offer to step down but also authorising him to “rebuild” the outfit.
The CWC resolution stated, “Congress president Rahul Gandhi in his address to the CWC offered his resignation as the party president. The CWC unanimously and with one voice rejected the same and requested the Congress president for his leadership and guidance in these challenging times.”
The CWC also authorised Mr Gandhi to overhaul and restructure the party at all levels. At a personal level, Mr Gandhi has been dealt a double blow — not only did his party fare poorly in the polls but he himself lost the election in the family bastion of Amethi. Since Mrs Sonia Gandhi entered politics in 1997, the party has seen just two party chiefs, she herself and her son. Also since the Nehru’s days, Congress has mostly been led by the Nehru-Gandhi clan.
With Mr Gandhi’s reported “insistence” on stepping down, the dilemma before the Congress at this juncture is about whom to pick as president from outside the Gandhi family.
A proposal to appoint a non-Gandhi working president is also being discussed in the party.
For several decades, the Gandhi family has managed to keep the party together despite several electoral debacles. There is apprehension that rivalry among party leaders could lead to a split in the organisation in the absence of the Gandhis.
The pathetic show during the general elections has not only put a massive question mark on Mr Gandhi’s leadership but also the organisation’s lack of connect at the grassroots level.
Mr Gandhi’s much-repeated slogan against Prime Minister Narendra Modi — “Chowkidar Chor Hai” — also seems to have backfired on the Congress.
While the BJP’s election machinery moved at breakneck speed, plugging each and every loophole, senior Congress leader A.K. Anthony’s report on reasons for the party’s worst ever electoral performance in 2014 was never discussed or debated within the party.
A senior Congress leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “This instrospection and resignation exercise has become a joke.”