At a meeting of the Congress “G-23” or rebel group last night, leaders ruled out splitting the party for now, but called for the Gandhis to remove their loyalists from key posts to enable a resurrection of India’s oldest party, sources said today.
The party is “too weak” to survive the split, the dissenters reportedly discussed at the meeting held at the home of Ghulam Nabi Azad, a leading member of the G-23 or group of 23 dissenters who had written to Sonia Gandhi two years ago demanding big changes in the Congress, including a leadership overhaul.
Ghulam Nabi Azad is likely to meet with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to deliver the message from the meeting and the rebels’ concern, sources say. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are expected to be at the meeting.
The G-23 met two days after an election post-mortem by the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, on Sunday.
Sonia Gandhi offered to resign at that meeting, along with her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, saying the family was ready for the “sacrifice”. That was “unanimously rejected”, senior Congress leaders said after the meeting.
The Congress announced after the post-mortem – the latest of many over the years – that the party reaffirmed its faith in Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and had asked her to make corrective organisational changes.
Sonia Gandhi sacked the Congress chiefs of the five states where the party was routed, and named a panel of senior leaders to suggest more changes – Jairam Ramesh, Ajay Maken , Avinash Pandey and Jitendra Singh.
The rebels have accused the Congress of packing the panel with Gandhi family loyalists who, they say, have done little but shielded the top leadership while suggesting cosmetic changes.
The panel tasked with examining the reasons for the Congress’ state election debacle has the very leaders responsible for misguiding the leadership, say the rebels.
Demanding that these leaders be dropped, the rebels said if this is not done, then “the next steps will be drastic and no one wants that”.
The rebels’ meeting featured a mix of the original G-23 and surprise ‘newcomers’ like Mani Shankar Aiyar, a staunch Gandhi family loyalist.
Shashi Tharoor, who was among the letter writers but had since distanced himself from the ginger group, also participated in the meeting after posting a cryptic tweet about making a “few more mistakes”.
In a statement after the meet, the rebels called for a “collective, inclusive leadership and decision-making”.
Their statement stopped short of calling for a non-Gandhi leadership. “We believe that the only way forward is for the Congress to adopt the model of collective and inclusive leadership and decision-making at all levels,” it said.
The participants included Kapil Sibal, Manish Tiwari, Anand Sharma and Prithviraj Chavan, besides “newcomers” like Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Raj Babbar and Shankar Singh Vaghela.
The meeting was called at Kapil Sibal’s home but the venue was changed at the last minute as some leaders were uncomfortable with his sharp criticism of the Gandhis after the post-mortem.
“I want a ‘Sab ki Congress’. Some others want a ‘Ghar ki Congress,'” Mr Sibal had told the Indian Express, asserting that it was time for the Gandhis to make way for fresh blood.