Days after Rahul Gandhi resigned as Congress president over the national election defeat, top party leaders met this evening in Delhi. With Rahul Gandhi, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka giving the meeting a miss, there was speculation that the meet was about picking a successor to Mr Gandhi. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, however, said there was no discussion on who will be the next Congress chief and that the meeting was just about the current crisis in the Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition government in Karnataka. He blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP for 11 legislators quitting the Congress and JDS.
"It's very unfortunate that the BJP is trying to bring down a democratically elected government with offers of money and power. Democracy is being denigrated in broad daylight," the Congress spokesperson said after the meet.
The meeting was attended by senior Congress leaders like Anand Sharma, Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram, Deepender Hooda and Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Sources had last week indicated that the Congress may choose between Sushilkumar Shinde and Mallikarjun Kharge as new party president. It will be the third time that someone outside the Nehru-Gandhi family will lead the Congress after PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri.
Rahul Gandhi, who took over as party chief from his mother Sonia Gandhi in 2017, had quit on May 25, days after the Congress ended up with just 52 of 543 Lok Sabha seats, pulverized once again by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP. He made it official in his open letter earlier this week, after which the designation of "President" also vanished from his Twitter bio.
As the Congress stares at the task of choosing a new leader, several leaders have urged Rahul Gandhi to reconsider his decision, insisting that he would always be their chief.
Today's meeting takes place while the party's Karnataka coalition government seems to be hurtling towards a collapse with several resignations today.
Karnataka was one of the states where the Congress suffered a humiliating wipeout in the national election despite being in power. The Congress could manage only one of Karnataka's 28 seats.
Congress's infighting in Karnataka and other states it rules, like Punjab and Rajasthan, are symptomatic of an organization that has lost its way and is need of urgent fixes.
Mr Gandhi referred to some of the issues in a public letter to partymen on his decision to resign, and called for "radical transformation" of the Congress.
"Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019," he had written.