The letter from the 20-odd senior Congress leaders, which called for a thorough overhaul of the party leadership -- basing it on internal election at every level -- is not a criticism of the Gandhis, the leaders have said. "We have not criticised Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi, but we want a complete overhaul of the Congress party in its management and style," a senior leader told NDTV today.
The letter came at the end of a six-year decline of the party that started with the crushing defeat in the 2014 general election. Over the recent weeks, there has been a rumble of criticism and demand for reforms from a section of leaders that includes party veterans like Anand Sharma, Veerappa Moily, Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor and young leaders like Jitin Prasada and Milind Deora.
"Somebody had to bell the cat," one of the Congress leaders who signed the letter told NDTV on condition of anonymity.
The letter, dated August 7, was written just before the Congress brokered a truce between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot, mainly through the efforts of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Signed by senior leaders like Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prithviraj Chavan, Vivek Tankha and Anand Sharma -- the letter called for a "full-time", "effective leadership" that will be "visible" and "active" in the field, sources said. The letter also suggested a "collective leadership", and said the Gandhis will remain an integral part of it.
The loss of focus by the leadership was showing with the party's poor performance in elections, the leaders claimed. In the letter, the lack of introspection and discussion were shown as reason why the party is failing to perform, sources said..
The unrest within the party had started to show as Rahul Gandhi started his own narrative and attacks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a number of issues, ranging from the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic to the Chinese incursion in Ladakh.
Some leaders feel Rahul Gandhi is remote controlling the party, making all appointments and decisions and yet, he is not accountable. They said despite his resignation and his hands-off attitude, he still controls the affairs of the party and must come clean on whether he wants to lead the party. If not, a collective leadership must take charge and overhaul the internal workings of the party, they contended.
The leaders also pointed out that their letter is not a revolt like the one Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar carried out in the Congress Working Committee in 1999, after which they were expelled. This is a genuine effort to clean out the stables and help the Congress be relevant and be seen as an alternative to the BJP, they said.