After the drubbing the Congress received in recent assembly elections, 23 senior party leaders are reported to have written to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi, as per a report. It’s now an existential battle for the 135-year-old party.
They have demanded that she should convene a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to discuss the issue threadbare immediately. Besides, they have said that organisational elections for the party’s president should be conducted henceforth at the earliest.
The Congress had won only 19 out of 70 seats that it contested during the Bihar elections. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the left parties had performed far better than the Congress across the state. The final tally of these parties, which constituted Mahagathbandhan, stood at 110. The RJD-led Mahagathbandhan lost to National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as it scored 125. The loss was particularly galling for the allies as it had come in the face of 15 years of anti-incumbency faced by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Most analysts, commenting on the performance of the Mahagathbandhan, said later that it was the poor performance of the Congress which was the main reason for the loss to NDA. Elsewhere in other states too, where by-elections were held, the Congress faired poorly be it UP, MP, Gujarat and some other states. They also said that the Congress mostly ends up pulling down its allies in elections. Priyanka Gandhi was made in charge of UP some years ago but she was conspicuous by her absence from campaigning in the by-elections there.
One senior party leader said: “Can such w casual approach happen in any other party which has a national presence?” Another had remarked: “The Congress is run by the spokespersons on television debates only.”
Several CWC members have confirmed that such a letter regarding Bihar elections was indeed sent to Sonia Gandhi some days ago. The lead in writing the letter has been taken this time also by Ghulam Nabi Azad who was also among the leaders who had sent a similar letter in August.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma and many other well-known leaders were among the signatories to the August letter. That had led to a commotion in the Congress as it was widely interpreted as directed against Rahul Gandhi. This time too, his apparently non-serious attitude has annoyed senior party leaders.
Incidentally, Rahul Gandhi was on a vacation in Shimla, along with Priyanka Vadra Gandhi, on the day of the Bihar counting, far from the maddening crowds. In August, when reports appeared about letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi in the media, Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the signatories were working at the behest of the BJP.
This had led to strong reaction from some leaders as most of their entire lives have been spent in the Congress. In a tweet, Kapil Sibal had said the last thing he could have ever expected was to be accused of working for the BJP. Sibal withdrew the Tweet later, claiming that Rahul Gandhi had personally called and clarified on the issue.
In August, when a rebellious letter from 23 MPs reached Sonia Gandhi, a coterie had worked to diffuse the situation. Instead of taking any concrete action on internal democracy, holding fresh elections to the CWC, and choosing a president, the baton was skillfully passed on to Sonia again as interim president.
Sonia had issued a statement that she was hurt by the letter, adding she had no “ill-will towards the signatories”. It was considered neither here nor there as the issues raised by the signatories were buried effectively. No far-reaching changes, and overhaul of the party, from top to bottom, as sought by the senior party leaders, were initiated.
There are no indications available that the Gandhi family has any other strategy to deal with different issues. They don’t seem inclined to let go of the control of the Congress which has been treated by them as personal fief. It is worth mentioning that West Bengal is the next state which faces elections over the next few months. There, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is facing a strong challenge from the BJP which has claimed that it will win the next assembly elections easily.