"Congress Meet Called After Dissent Letter": Sonia Gandhi Camp Slams Leak

Monday's CWC meeting, the sources stressed, had been called at Mrs Gandhi's behest and was in response to the dissenting leaders' letter

'Congress Meet Called After Dissent Letter': Sonia Gandhi Camp Slams Leak

Interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi told her aides she would resign from her post (File)

New Delhi:

The Congress leaders who signed a letter calling for "full-time, visible" leadership - a letter that has reignited debate over the Gandhi family's control of the party and which is to be discussed at a meeting of the CWC on Monday - should never have been leaked to the public, sources within the Sonia Gandhi camp said late Sunday evening.

The sources said Mrs Gandhi, who assumed interim leadership of the party last year, after Rahul Gandhi stepped down, had already acknowledged the dissenting leaders' concerns and called the CWC (Congress Working Committee, the party's highest decision-making body) meeting tomorrow.

Monday's CWC meeting, the sources stressed, had been called at Mrs Gandhi's behest and was in response to the dissenting leaders' letter.

Dated August 7, the letter is signed by senior leaders like Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Prithviraj Chavan and Anand Sharma, and seeks sweeping changes in the organisation, including elections at every level, decentralisation of power (and empowerment of state units) and the formation of a "collective leadership".

The letter does not, one of the leaders told NDTV on condition of anonymity, amount to a criticism of either Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi. "... but we want a complete overhaul of the Congress party in its management and styles," the leader said.

Late Sunday evening, after the letter was leaked and speculation over her continuing in her interim role grew, Mrs Gandhi told her aides she would step down from the top post.

Sonia Gandhi, 73, had been persuaded by the party to return to the position she gave up for Mr Gandhi in December 2017. The appointment was meant to be temporary - a holding role while a more permanent solution was found.

Mrs Gandhi has frequently expressed her desire to step down for a second time in view of her health. However, so long as there is no consensus on a full-time party chief, she remains in the position.

Mr Gandhi, who resigned owning responsibility for the party's poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, has been repeatedly urged, by one section of the party, to return. Another section, however, feel he is, as yet, too inexperienced to re-build the Congress, and is a non-performing asset, electorally.

Mr Gandhi has reportedly ruled out, as he has done so frequently in the past, returning to the top post. Sources close to him, however, say he is not averse to coming back.

Ahead of tomorrow's crucial CWC meet, some senior Congress leaders have come out strongly in defence of the Gandhi family and their continued leadership of the party.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh led that charge, insisting the Gandhis were still the "right fit for the leadership role" and cautioning that electoral defeats could not be the "yardstick for leadership change".

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also defended the Gandhis.