Rahul Gandhi offers to resign at CWC meet, gets free hand to overhaul party
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday offered to resign, taking responsibility for his party’s decimation in the Lok Sabha elections, but the Congress Working Committee (CWC) rejected the offer in one voice and instead, asked him to overhaul and restructure the organisation.
The four-hour-long meeting of the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body, held two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured a second term in a landslide victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), discussed the reasons for the Congress’s drubbing in the national elections.
In his opening address, Gandhi, who was the face and voice of his party in the election, thanked party workers. This was followed by comments by CWC members, praising Gandhi’s role in the party’s campaign. Gandhi spoke after they had their say and said he wanted to step down and urged the party to elect a new president. CWC members rejected this offer, and once again commended him for his effort.
Party general secretary and Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra intervened and said just one person could not be held accountable for the poll debacle. Gandhi’s mother, former party president Sonia Gandhi, was present but did not speak.
WATCH | Rahul Gandhi’s resignation rejected by Congress’ top decision-making body
“The CWC unanimously and with one voice rejected the same (Gandhi’s offer to resign) and requested the Congress president for his leadership and guidance in these challenging times,” a resolution passed in the meeting said.
While some reports later claimed that Rahul Gandhi was insisting on stepping down, senior Congress functionaries said a CWC resolution was binding on any member or office bearer irrespective of the post. “The matter ends there,” a party leader said.
The CWC meeting was attended by all the permanent members, special invitees, and four chief ministers. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath could not attend the deliberations as he decided to stay in Bhopal to keep a close watch on political developments in the state where his government could be on shaky ground.
“The CWC unanimously called upon the Congress president, Shri Rahul Gandhi, to lead the party in its ideological battle and to champion the cause of India’s youth, the farmers, the SC/ST/OBCs, the minorities, the poor and the deprived sections,” added the resolution moved by senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Apart from recommending a thorough introspection on the electoral defeat, the CWC also authorised Rahul Gandhi to go for a complete overhaul of the party.
In his speech, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh suggested setting up a committee to analyse the reasons for the party’s rout in the elections, the Congress’ second successive poor showing in a national election. In 2014 too a committee headed by AK Antony was formed to do just this.
Pitching the election as a secularism versus communalism battle, perceived minority appeasement, strong anti-incumbency against chief ministers and lack of coordination between central and state leadership were some of the reasons cited by the Antony committee for the party’s rout in 2014.
Rahul Gandhi is expected to carry out a major reshuffle of the party at the earliest given that assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi are due in a few months.
The dominant view in the Congress is that a revival at the national level is possible only when the party resurrects itself in the states.
Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao said the Congress should formulate state-specific strategies for its revival. “Rahul Gandhi should maintain a fine balance between veterans and young leaders and utilise their services according to their strengths,” he said.
Addressing a news conference at the party headquarters in Delhi, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the CWC members asked Rahul Gandhi to identify the strengths of all the leaders and accordingly assign them new responsibilities.
Accepting the verdict, the grand old party thanked voters and insisted that it will play the role of a constructive opposition and continue to raise people’s issues and hold the government accountable.
“The CWC fully recognises the challenges, the failures and the shortcomings, resulting into this mandate… Congress party has lost the election but our indomitable courage, our fighting spirit and commitment to our ideology remains stronger than ever. We shall continue our fight against forces that thrive on hatred and division,” the resolution said.
Also at the meeting, senior leaders such as Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram, Captain Amarinder Singh and Azad reiterated the party’s concerns over electronic voting machines.The Congress and other opposition parties are expected to rake up the issue again once the election dust settles down.
The Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said “the partisan manner” in which the Lok Sabha polls were conducted by the Election Commission was also discussed.