Congress's Jairam Ramesh --- not one of the G-23 leaders clamouring for a change in leadership -- admitted Thursday that the party needs to put its "house in order" before the next general elections roll around. This, he indicated, was also essential in order to come to an understanding with like-minded opposition parties for forming a common front against the BJP -- an effort that failed the last time.
"''If you are asking me .. if you are telling me ... that we need to resolve the leadership issue one way or the other ... I agree - these are issues that we should not keep hanging for too long. We lost badly in 2014. We lost very very badly in 2019 and we have to get our house in order. House in order means getting the organisation in order, getting the leadership in order, getting our messaging in order. All this has to move," Mr Ramesh told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
At the same time, the former Union minister, known to be close to the Gandhi family, added, "No one leader has a magic wand... this is a team effort".
The Congress has been floundering without a leader since the 2019 general elections when Rahul Gandhi stepped down from the party's top post.
Despite promises to sort out the leadership issue following the explosive letter by 23 prominent leaders of the party, Sonia Gandhi remains as the interim chief.
The party, meanwhile, had a string of reverses in assembly elections, failing to capture power in Assam and Kerala where it has a solid voter base. In Bengal, it failed to win a single seat and lost the few it held. It even failed to retain power in the tiny Union Territory of Puducherry.
In Rajasthan, it is precariously holding onto power and in Punjab -- where it won a solid victory -- the party is struggling to contain a very public infighting ahead of next year's elections.
Last year, Congress lost Madhya Pradesh to the BJP following a revolt by Jyotiraditya Scindia and his loyalists.
"Youngsters who have left us are privileged by birth. They got good positions by the party," Mr Ramesh admitted today, days after another key GenNext leader, Jitin Prasada left for the BJP.
But "for every Scindia who left, there are thousands of young Congress party workers who are fighting for the party," Mr Ramesh said.
"We are not in power at the Centre. In spite of this, there are thousands of youngsters who have committed their lives to the Congress," he added.
He also questioned why the BJP is accepting those it had always scorned for being "privileged".
"Why is the BJP accepting those they criticise for being privileged? When these people are in Congress, BJP criticises them but then it takes them too... there is a certain discipline to a party - people can't just go and come as they please," Mr Ramesh said.
On this note, he also praised Sachin Pilot – considered another flight risk after his rebellion last year against Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Mr Pilot, he said, is a "great asset to the Congress... there is a great future ahead of him in the party".