A group of Congress "rebels" who wrote a letter flagging a leadership drift and calling for sweeping organizational changes, may finally get to meet with Sonia Gandhi. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath was key to setting up the meeting, sources say.
Twenty three leaders had signed the letter, but not all will be at the meeting. A core group of five or six leaders is likely to represent the wider concerns, it is believed.
The meeting will take place on Saturday, say sources, in moves towards reconciliation. It is not clear if Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be present.
But the Congress claims it is not just a meeting between Sonia Gandhi and the rebels; others who were not signatories to the letter will also be present.
Kamal Nath, say sources, has backed the cause of the so-called dissident leaders, who had expressed concern over the party's downslide and had called for an "active and present leadership" in a letter in August. It was a stunning act of defiance by a group that included the party's senior most defenders and spokespersons.
Kamal Nath, who lost power in Madhya Pradesh in March following senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia's defection to the BJP, played a role in persuading the Gandhis to meet the letter writers, sources say. So far, he had kept a distance from the dissenters.
Soon after the letter bomb dropped, some of the "dissidents", like Ghulam Nabi Azad, were snubbed when they sought an appointment with Sonia Gandhi. Instead, Mr Azad and another letter writer, Mukul Wasnik, faced a virtual ambush in an online Congress meet, in the presence of the Gandhis.
Signs of a thaw have emerged as the Congress looks to elect a new chief in the New Year. Sonia Gandhi, 74, has been interim party president since her son Rahul Gandhi quit last year over the Congress's second straight national election defeat.
Since then, the party has lost two key states, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, and has barely held on to Rajasthan, where rebel Sachin Pilot came around after meeting with the Gandhis. Recently, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot hinted that the threat of the BJP trying to topple his government with help from Congress rebels was not gone.
A rebellion threatened to flare up again last month after the Congress's abysmal performance in the Bihar election. Kapil Sibal, one of the letter writers, went public with a sharp jab at the leadership, saying "the time for introspection is over". After him, other party leaders like P Chidambaram also called for a "comprehensive review" and suggested that the party needed to strengthen its core.