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At Lok Sabha strategy meet, clamour for Rahul Gandhi overshadows agenda

Gandhi, however, remained firm on his decision to step down from the helm of the 134-year-old party, saying he had decided even before the April-May general election that he would take responsibility and step down if the Congress fared badly in the polls, people who attended the meet said.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2019 01:07 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji and Amrita Madhukalya
Saubhadra Chatterji and Amrita Madhukalya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi had said at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision making body, on May 25 that he would step down as party president.
Rahul Gandhi had said at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision making body, on May 25 that he would step down as party president.(Bloomberg)
         

The clamour for Rahul Gandhi to continue as Congress president pushed everything else on the agenda to the sidelines at the first strategy meeting of the party’s newly elected Lok Sabha members on Wednesday.

Gandhi, however, remained firm on his decision to step down from the helm of the 134-year-old party, saying he had decided even before the April-May general election that he would take responsibility and step down if the Congress fared badly in the polls, people who attended the meet said requesting anonymity.

After many senior MPs appealed to him to reconsider his decision, Gandhi said at the meeting, held to chalk out the party’s Lok Sabha floor strategy, that “people at the higher level must be held accountable and accountability can’t stop at the lower level,” two Congress MPs said.

Gandhi, 49, said at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision making body, on May 25 that he would step down as party president. He has remained steadfast in his decision, which came after the party finished with 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. Gandhi himself lost election from his family pocket borough, Amethi in UP, although he was elected from Wayanad in Kerala.

Congress leaders said discussions on floor coordination in the Lok Sabha and identifying possible partners among other opposition parties took the backseat at Wednesday’s meeting. Another meeting is likely to take place to discuss floor strategy.

Minutes after the meeting started, some Congress leaders displayed banners saying “Come Back”. Senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor put forth an argument on why Gandhi should not quit. Tharoor pointed out that in the 2019 elections, many parties and not just the Congress had suffered setbacks. “But no party chief has quit. Why should you quit?” Tharoor said to Gandhi.

Another MP from Punjab, Ludhiana lawmaker Ravneet Singh Bittu, said that if he quit, Gandhi would only be walking into the trap of the BJP which, he said, wanted Gandhi to go.

Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari requested Gandhi to set up a committee that would look into the reasons for the party’s failure in the LS polls. “Tewari told Rahul that if he resigns now, he would be putting the cart before the horse,” a senior Congress MP said.

A group of Youth Congress leaders later met Gandhi and appealed to him to continue as chief, but Gandhi told them that he had already took his decision.

Wednesday’s meeting was convened after new Congress Lok Sabha members urged the party’s floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and chief whip Koddikunnil Suresh to arrange for a meeting between Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Parliamentary Party’s chairperson, and them.

First Published: Jun 26, 2019 23:51 IST

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