- Rahul Gandhi, say sources, is firm on not returning as Congress chief
- A letter addressed to Sonia Gandhi has split Congress down the middle
- Sources say the "dissidents" wrote the letter on August 7
Here are the top 10 updates on this big story:
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh moved a resolution asking Sonia Gandhi to continue until a session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), to be called within six months, to launch the search for a new chief. Several Congress leaders suggested that if Sonia Gandhi did not want to continue, Rahul Gandhi should return to the post that he had quit last year over Congress's national election defeat.
"The CWC, reflecting the overwhelming view and desire of the rank and file of the Congress, unanimously resolved to strengthen the hands of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in every possible way," said a resolution that referred to the Gandhis' attacks on the BJP-led government on subjects ranging from the coronavirus fight to the dispute with China.
The resolution also said "inner-party issues cannot be deliberated through the media or in public fora" and should be raised within the party in the interest of propriety and discipline.
The CWC meeting was called to discuss an August 7 letter by 23 top leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor and Anand Sharma, which called for sweeping reforms in the party and flagged "uncertainty over leadership" and "a drift" that had demoralized workers. The letter, which also suggested that the Gandhis will always be part of a "collective leadership", was leaked yesterday.
An upset Sonia Gandhi started the meeting by telling the party she wanted out of the job, which she had taken for one year, and asking the party to start looking for a new chief. What followed was the familiar script of leaders praising her leadership and stressing that the party must be led by her or her son Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi, who was believed to be at his mother's home during the meeting, hit out at the signatories to the letter and questioned such a move "when the Congress was at its weakest, when it was battling crises in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and when the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) was in hospital". He reportedly asked "for whom was it done".
Reports that Rahul Gandhi also accused the letter writers of colluding with the BJP led to a massive backlash before the Congress put out an emphatic denial. Leaders like Kapil Sibal shot off a tweet hitting out at Rahul Gandhi, which is rare for the Congress. Kapil Sibal soon deleted the tweet and posted: "Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him . I therefore withdraw my tweet ."
Four of the letter signatories who are members of the CWC found themselves ambushed by colleagues who were sharply critical of the act; some, like Ambika Soni, even called for action against them. Ghulam Nabi Azad, who read out a part of the letter, offered to quit. He clarified that the offer was in reaction to nothing Rahul Gandhi said but to others in the party who were pointing fingers at those who wrote the letter.
Sources say Mr Azad and other letter writers in the CWC -- Mukul Wasnik and Anand Sharma – said they were ready to face punishment "immediately" and remained loyal to the party. An emotional Mr Azad reportedly talked about working with Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. The "dissenters" reportedly said they had fought the BJP all their lives and were Nehruvians. "You can disagree with issues but cannot doubt our intent in any way," they reportedly said.
Mr Azad told NDTV that he was satisfied by the outcome of the meeting. The Congress would have a permanent president and ad-hocism would end, he said.