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Congress Preps To Elect New Chief; Gandhis, Rebels Meet Today: 10 Points

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Signs of a thaw have emerged as the Congress looks to elect a new chief. (File)

New Delhi:
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will flag off a series of meetings today – to be held over the next 10 days – with senior party leaders to elect the next president, top spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Friday, stressing that “99.9 per cent” leaders are in favour of Rahul Gandhi’s return to the top post. A core group of rebel leaders – who wrote a letter in August flagging a leadership drift and calling for sweeping organizational changes – will be also putting their concerns before Sonia Gandhi, say sources. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is one of the loyalists likely to be present at today’s meeting.

Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:

  1. Rahul Gandhi is likely to be present in Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s meet with the “rebels” dubbed the “G-23”, sources say.  

  2. The meeting with the rebels is a step towards reconciliation after months of infighting. Twenty three leaders had signed the August 23 letter, but not all meet the Congress chief. A core group of five or six leaders is likely to represent the wider concerns.

  3. “We are one family and we will sort it out,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Friday.  “The party will soon start the procedure to elect a new party president. An electoral college of Congress, AICC (All India Congress Committee) members, Congress workers and members will choose who’s best suited,” he added. 

  4. “It’s my belief and (the) belief of 99.99 per cent of leaders – an overwhelming  majority – that Rahul Gandhi is the right person to lead the party and take on the Modi government,” Mr Surjewala further said. 

  5. In a stunning act of defiance, 23 senior Congress leaders in August had expressed concern over the party’s downslide since it lost power in 2014 and had called for an “active and visible leadership”. 

  6. Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad were among some of the “dissidents” who were snubbed when they sought an appointment with Sonia Gandhi. Instead, Mr Azad and another letter writer, Mukul Wasnik, faced a virtual ambush in an online Congress meet, in the presence of the Gandhis. 

  7. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath reportedly played a big part in getting Sonia Gandhi to agree to the meeting. Kamal Nath, who lost power in Madhya Pradesh in March following senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection to the BJP, had so far kept a distance from the dissenters. Sources say he has now backed their cause. 

  8. After Rahul Gandhi stepped down as the party chief last year over the 2019 national election debacle, Congress lost two states – Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Trouble erupted in Rajasthan earlier this year after an upset Sachin Pilot headed to camp to Delhi; he met with the Gandhi to return to iron out differences with Ashok Gehlot. 

  9. Abysmal performance in Bihar election last month led to a fresh flare up within the party. Kapil Sibal, one of the letter writers, went public with a sharp jab at the leadership, saying “the time for introspection is over”. 

  10. After him, other party leaders like P Chidambaram also called for a “comprehensive review” and suggested that the party needed to strengthen its core.

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