After two disastrous outings in consecutive national elections, Rahul Gandhi may not be the best bet for the Congress party’s revival, one of the 23 veterans who have found themselves cornered over their so-called dissent letter to chief Sonia Gandhi, has told NDTV in signs that the fissures in the 135-year-old outfit are far from patched up.
“We are no more in a position to say that Rahul Gandhi will be able to lead the party and help us get 400 seats in 2024. We must realise that in two Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, the party hasn’t been able to get the required seats,” one of the key signatories of the letter said, requesting not to be named.
In recent months, there have been growing calls for Rahul Gandhi to return as Congress chief. Mr Gandhi had quit after the 2019 election debacle and two months later his mother Sonia Gandhi returned as interim chief.
“From Nagpur to Shimla (in the northern half of the country), the party has 16 seats out of which eight are from Punjab. We must realise we are in India and there is a different reality. If there is a meeting, I will put forth my views on this issue,” said the leader who was instrumental in its drafting and getting signatures.
Asserting that the battle is not about individuals but about issues, he reiterated his commitment to the party and said helping build an alternative narrative based on the sound constitutional values will help the Congress.
According to him, most of the letter-writers say that being in politics for a long time, they are committed to the party and have the highest regard for Sonia Gandhi. They say the issues that have been raised will help the party survive and succeed in taking on the BJP.
Sonia Gandhi, the leader said, is fair-minded and keeps her word and will definitely address their issues.
On whether they have been side-lined by the party’s new parliamentary line-up, the letter-writers say too much is being read into it. The committee existed earlier too and the only new thing is the addition of Jairam Ramesh as chief whip; P Chidambaram as chairman of the ordinances committee will also be part of the committee, they said.
The letter-writers say they will continue to meet and discuss their concerns and are focused on raising them despite “loyalists and sycophants” attacking them and building a narrative that Rahul Gandhi is a natural leader.
The group of Congress veterans had found themselves targeted at a stormy meeting on Monday for sending the letter calling for sweeping reforms, fair internal elections and a “full-time, visible leadership” that they sent to Sonia Gandhi, who took over as interim chief after her son Rahul Gandhi’s resignation last year.
But after sharp attacks, accusations and sparring, the meeting ended on a conciliatory note with Sonia Gandhi saying all was forgiven.
The party endorsed the Gandhi leadership and pledged to boost Sonia and Rahul Gandhi at a time they have been at the forefront of the opposition’s fight against the central government’s policies. Sonia Gandhi would continue as interim Congress chief until an All India Congress Committee (AICC) meeting to be called in six months, the party said.