Dissent brewed over aloof leadership?
A communication breakdown between the Gandhis and other leaders in the party was cited by the signatories, who said only party general secretary KC Venugopal and national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had access to the top leadership.Updated: Aug 24, 2020, 01:34 IST
The letter of dissent by top Congress leaders was triggered by a combination of factors -- primarily the exclusion of seniors in decision-making and contentious internal appointments -- according to several of the over 100 signatories Hindustan Times spoke to.
A communication breakdown between the Gandhis and other leaders in the party was cited by the signatories, who said only party general secretary KC Venugopal and national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had access to the top leadership.
“There are just three people running the party: Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. Nobody else has been consulted for anything in the last three years,’’ said one of the leading signatories who did not wish to be named.
The dissenters that HT spoke to said their letter was a wake-up call to get the party ready ahead of the 2024 elections. “It’s now been exactly 15 months since the loss and yet there has been no tangible way forward that has been pointed out,’’ said one of the Lok Sabha members of Parliament who signed.
A Rajya Sabha member among the signatories said, “There has been no manthan (introspection) at all. We are not asking for any key positions. We have thanked the ex-president and the president but we want someone to stand up and say that the nation is more important.’’
HT has learnt that one of the key triggers was Sonia Gandhi’s speech at the all-party meeting called by the Prime Minister after the Galwan Valley clash in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. At the meeting, Gandhi was the only leader who took a critical position against the government, asking questions pertaining to an intelligence failure and of Chinese forces building up along the LAC.
“This was a key foreign policy issue and yet none of the experts in the party who are dealing with foreign policy were consulted. There was a feeling that a stand should be taken by the party by consensus,’’ said one of the leaders.
Key foreign policy experts among the signatories include former UN envoy-turned-MP Shashi Tharoor and former Union minister Anand Sharma.
The leaders who met on Sunday evening also dismissed the “coterie” that surrounded Rahul Gandhi. “They are kids. Why don’t we have a parliamentary board which is elected? Why is everyone nominated whether it is to the CWC or to the extended CWC?’’ said one of the persons who organised the signatures.
While the exit of senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who moved to the BJP, added to the unease, appointments of Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as Lok Sabha leader to, most recently, that of Ajay Maken as general secretary upset many of these leaders.
“There is no understanding as to what qualifies someone for an appointment. There is nothing against Maken or Chowdhury but why isn’t there a discussion?’’ said the person cited above.
The other camp within the party dismissed these concerns as stemming from personal uncertainties. Its members pointed out that key signatory Ghulam Nabi Azad’s term as Leader of the Opposition (LoP) will end on February 15 next year and there is no indication that he will get re-elected around that time. Azad is also the party general secretary in charge of Haryana.
Similarly, general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge’s entry into the Rajya Sabha has diminished deputy leader Anand Sharma’s chances of becoming the LoP. His term ends in April 2022.
“The others are all feeling sidelined in the party,” said a Congress functionary.
While charges flew thick and fast, the signatories and their supporters said they would not stay silent any longer. They said their next course of action would be determined after the CWC meeting on Monday.