The Congress needs to think beyond the Gandhis, senior party leader Anand Sharma told NDTV today as the leadership question has been thrown wide open after Rahul Gandhi reiterated his negative to the top post of the party over the weekend. Mr Shama, who after Ghulam Nabi Azad, stepped down from a key party post, declared that it was a number of leaders who had kept the party afloat after Indira Gandhi was expelled in 1978. "Those were people like us... This party belongs to all of us," he said.
There was no reason why the list should be confined to Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, he said. "Is the Congress only confined to these two names? Are we not ridiculing the history of the Congress party," he added.
One of the 23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi two years ago, demanding organisational changes, Mr Sharma said, "As long as the letter is there, we remain viable. We are not rebels, we are reformists. To ask to follow the (party's) constitution, is it a crime?"
Ahead of the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, Mr Sharma stepped down from the post of the chief of the "steering committee" of the party's Himachal Pradesh unit. Sources said in a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi, he said he felt left out of the party's decisions ahead of the polls and that his self-respect is "non-negotiable".
"Reiterating that I am a lifelong congressman and remain firm on my convictions... given the continuing exclusion and insults, as a self-respecting person - I was left with no choice," Mr Sharma posted on Twitter earlier today, announcing his resignation.
The crisis comes on the heels of the rebellion by a group of leaders led by Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Azad had stepped down from the poll panel formed for Jammu and Kashmir, where elections are due as well, in the time the Congress had marked for an overhaul.
With a string of elections due this year and the next, and the general elections in 2024, it was expected that the party would take this opportunity to get in shape. The Congress's performance has been dropping lower with every passing election. The prescription of the G-23 and several other leaders had been a full-time leader who would be accountable.
Mr Sharma said he hoped that the message was being received by the party leadership. "I hope it registers for her that what's happening," he said.