Congress's Sachin Pilot, the leader who kept the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan on tenterhooks for a month by his rebellion, has tweeted support for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi as a controversy over a letter by more than 20 leaders has engulfed the party. The letter, written on August 7, as the Congress was busy trying to bring Mr Pilot and 18 MLAs loyal to him back into the fold.
Calling for sweeping reforms, introspection and "a full-time, visible leadership", the letter suggested the establishment of an "institutional leadership mechanism" to collectively guide the party's revival. It also said the "uncertainty" over the leadership issue and the "drift" in the party was demoralising the party workers and weakened the party. The Nehru-Gandhi family, who had chiefly been leading the party since Independence, should be an integral part of the collective leadership, the letter said.
In his tweet, Mr Pilot made it clear that he disagreed. "Mrs Gandhi and Rahul-ji have shown what it means to sacrifice for the greater good of the people and the party. Its now time to build consensus and consolidate. Our future is stronger when we're united. Most Congress workers would like to see Rahul-ji take over and lead the party," his tweet read.
Mrs Gandhi and Rahul ji have shown what it means to sacrifice for the greater good of the people and the party.Its now time to build consensus and consolidate.— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) August 23, 2020
Our future is stronger when we're united. Most Congress workers would like to see Rahul ji take over and lead the party
The letter has split the Congress down the middle, with senior leaders like Amarinder Singh, Bhupesh Baghel and Siddaramaiah coming out in support of the Gandhis.
"Sonia Gandhi should continue as long as she wants; Rahul Gandhi should take over after her as he is fully competent," Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said this evening, hours before sources said Mrs Gandhi talked of offering to step down.
Sources also said Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are also reluctant to take the top job. While stepping down from the post last year, Mr Gandhi had asked the party leaders to look for a new leader outside the Nehru Gandhi family. He also said the party should not rope in his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi for the job.
Mr Pilot had several meetings with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during the month-long stand-off. He also had a couple of meetings with Rahul Gandhi towards the end of it.
The party later formed a three-member team that included Ms Gandhi Vadra and key changes were made to ensure the stability of the Rajasthan government. Mr Pilot had thanked Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for "listening".
Soon after, the Congress government won a trust vote in the assembly, which ensured its safety for the next six months.