Gandhis vs collective leadership: Cracks wide open in Congress ahead of crucial CWC meet
New Delhi, Aug 23: Will Sonia Gandhi step down as Congress chief tomorrow? Party Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala has rubbished reports of the Congress leader resigning from the post of Congress interim president as false.
A host of other leaders released statements and letters, supporting Sonia Gandhi and her leadership.
While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and former ministers Ashwani Kumar, Salman Khurshid and KK Tewary backed the Gandhis, the dissenting group included former ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Mukul Wasnik, Manish Tewari, Shashi Tharoor and former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
Former union minister and Congress veteran K K Tewary said on Sunday that a letter written by some party leaders calling for a change in leadership and an organisational overhaul is an "organised coup" by the BJP and promotes its agenda of 'Congress-mukt Bharat'.
He said the issues raised by the leaders deserved serious scrutiny by the leadership and in the same breath added that the Gandhi family should keep the reins of the party or else it would disintegrate.
Maharashtra Congress chief and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat on Sunday said former party president Rahul Gandhi should lead the grand old party.
Thorat also described Rahul Gandhi as a "courageous, sensitive and intellectually-committed leader". He said Sonia Gandhi should continue to lead the Congress as its interim president until Rahul Gandhi takes over as the full-time president.
"With due respect to Rahulji's sentiments, we would like to say, 'Come Back, Rahulji'. Under your leadership, we will be the voice of millions of Indians, we are determined to make history. This is not only the need of the Congress party but the need of the entire country as well," Thorat, who is a CWC member, said in a statement.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Sunday said the Gandhi family has kept the party united and the letter written by senior Congress leaders over party leadership is an unfortunate move.
He said the leaders who are said to have written the letter have worked with the party for long and this was not expected of them.
"I am not aware of any such letter but if this is true, then it is unfortunate. They all have worked with the party for so long and the move of the letter is uncalled for," Gehlot told PTI.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has opposed the bid by some Congress leaders to challenge the Gandhi family leadership in the party, saying this is not the time to raise such an issue.
In a statement, Singh said the need today is for a strong opposition against the BJP-led NDA which is out to destroy the country's constitutional ethos and democratic principles.
'What the Congress needs is a leadership that is acceptable not just to a few but to the entire party, through its rank and file, and the nation at large,' he said, adding that the Gandhis were the right fit for this role.
'Sonia Gandhi should continue to helm the Congress as long as she wants,' he said, adding that Rahul Gandhi should thereafter take over as he is fully competent to lead the party.
"If someone is asking him (Rahul Gandhi) to come back as the party president, it is for him to decide. Whoever is wanting him to be the party president, I will join my voice. I hope that he will decide that he will be the party president again," Salman Khurshid, Congress.
Congress MP B Manickam Tagore has written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi requesting her to continue as the party chief. "We would like to reiterate our complete & unwavering faith in your leadership. Congress party is only safe in your hands or in those of Rahul ji's," he wrote.
"Entire Congress in Karnataka stands by leadership of Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi family. She has led Congress during times of crisis & saved our party. Anything that has to be discussed must be done so in the party forum & not in the media," Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury came down heavily on a section of his party colleagues who have questioned the leadership, by saying it is a "deliberate attempt" to weaken the Congress while asserting that the party is in safe hands of the Gandhi family.
Accusing the said section of Congress leaders of raising the bogey of "leadership crisis" at the behest of "interested parties" as a "manufactured truth", Chowdhury, the Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, said lakhs of party workers and supporters have unquestionable faith on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi's leadership and "no one else can do justice to the post" of party president.
Different voices have emerged within the party with one section comprising sitting MPs and former ministers demanding a collective leadership, while another group has sought the return of Rahul Gandhi to the helm.
Some Congress leaders, including ex-ministers, have written to party president Sonia Gandhi for the overhaul of the organisational structure and changes to the leadership.