At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet on Monday, all eyes would be on party president Sonia Gandhi who is expected to set the tone for serious deliberations in the face of the Congress’s worst ever electoral defeat.
The last time Sonia faced a challenge to her authority — on account of her foreign origin — she responded by putting in her papers as the Congress president. That was just before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections after Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar challenged her projection as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, ostensibly on the grounds of her foreign origin. She withdrew the resignation after the entire party rallied behind her. But this time it’s more political than personal.
Though Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi owned up the responsibility for the poll debacle, senior leaders believe the leadership has to steer the party out of the crisis.
A section within the party does not rule out offers of resignation by Sonia and Rahul. But others trash the idea, insisting that “it is not the way to go forward”.
A few members of the CWC told HT on the condition of anonymity that few ministers will face the heat for their “arrogance”, failure to communicate the successes to the people and also for being “inaccessible” to workers.
Knives are also out against Rahul’s close aides and strategists for planning an “uninspiring” campaign and wrong distribution of tickets that caused “irreparable damage” to the party. CWC special invitee Anil Shastri called for immediate corrective measures to check problems such as party hoppers managing to get tickets at the cost of party loyalists.
Privately, Congress leaders are blaming general secretaries Madhusudan Mistry, CP Joshi, Ajay Maken, Mukul Wasnik, Mohan Prakash, Shakeel Ahmed, Gurudas Kamat, BK Hariprasad, Ambika Soni and Digvijaya Singh for the rout in the states under their charge. These leaders are equally critical of Rahul’s style of functioning.
During his interactions with party office bearers and leaders in the past, Rahul had made it clear he would go for “structural changes” in the party organisation after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections whatever the outcome.
While the young leaders hope for a complete takeover and overhaul by Rahul, the old guard insists Sonia should continue to run the organisational affairs and help the party bounce back.