Sonia Gandhi offers to resign as party chief, asks CWC to start process to elect new chief
New Delhi, Aug 24: Soon after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet began, Sonia Gandhi on Monday asked the party workers to relieve her as the interim chief of the Congress party.
Sonia Gandhi referred to the letter by Ghulam Nabi Azad, among others, while offering to quit as party chief. She also called for start of process to select the new party president. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and senior leader A K Antony criticised the letter by some leaders seeking leadership change.
The party is divided on the leadership matter with a section demanding collective leadership and another reposing faith in the Gandhi family.
Massive support poured for the Gandhis on Sunday after the "pro-reform" leaders went public, with Congress chief ministers leading the calls for Sonia Gandhi to stay until Rahul Gandhi takes charge.
Almost all Lok Sabha MPs of the party have written to Sonia Gandhi expressing solidarity and urging her to continue in her post or instal Rahul Gandhi.
Several state units including Delhi and Rajasthan passed resolutions favouring the leadership of Gandhis after a letter from a section of senior party leaders demanded sweeping reforms in the party, going to the extent of questioning the current CWC's ability to guide the party in the fight against the BJP.
Ironically, at least three of the dissenters are themselves part of the same CWC. These include Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik.
Several party leaders, while supporting the continuation of Gandhis at the helm, accused those behind the letter of playing into the hands of the BJP and attempting to weaken the party at a time when there was a need to close ranks against the NDA government.
This is the second challenge to Sonia Gandhi's leadership after the one in 1999 when the then leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sharad Pawar challenged her foreign origins in order to keep her from being named the party's prime ministerial face in the general elections that year.
Sonia Gandhi had resigned in the CWC, which rejected her move unanimously bringing her back as party president. While Sonia went on to become the longest-serving Congress president, Pawar and rebels had to quit to form the NCP.