Sonia says ready to make any sacrifice, CWC reposes faith in her

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi during CWC meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. (UNI)
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi during CWC meeting in New Delhi on Sunday. (UNI)

NEW DELHI, Mar 13: Days after its drubbing in five States, the Congress’ top decision-making body today unanimously decided that party president Sonia Gandhi should continue till organisational polls after she expressed readiness to “make any and every sacrifice” in the party’s interest.
The Congress Working Committee, during its nearly five-hour meeting, reposed full faith in her leadership, urging her to effect immediate corrective changes to strengthen the party and meet the political challenges ahead of the next round of elections.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said every Congress worker and leader wants Rahul Gandhi to lead the party, but as the process of organisational polls is underway, the next president will be decided through it.
Amid calls for large-scale reforms to revive the party’s dwindling electoral fortunes, AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, at a press conference after the CWC meeting, said the party president will immediately take corrective measures to revamp and re-strengthen the organisation.
The Congress will hold a ‘Chintan Shivir’ (brainstorming session) soon after the Budget Session of Parliament and the CWC will meet again before that, Venugopal said. The session is scheduled to end on April 8.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot suggested that the ‘Chintan Shivir be held in his state.
Later, leaders said this brainstorming session of three-four days would chalk out the future roadmap and strategy in order to address challenges.
Several leaders, after the meeting, said that Gandhi in her introductory remarks said she is ready “to make any and every sacrifice as Congress workers and the CWC wish in the interest of the party”.
These comments were seen by many as her readiness to even quit if required and felt necessary by the party leadership.
She listened to all leaders at the CWC meet and left the decision to the wisdom of the members, including those of the G-23, who reposed full faith in her.
“Every single member of the CWC wants Sonia Gandhi to guide the party till organisational elections are held,” Surjewala said, adding that the new Congress chief will be elected between August 21 and September 20.
The CWC members also said that the BJP-RSS attack the Gandhi family only to weaken the Congress.
Former party chief Rahul Gandhi at the meet talked about ways to strengthen the organisation and win back the faith of the people.
AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, K C Venugopal, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, party’s leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and P Chidambaram were among those who attended the meet.
The general secretaries, in-charges and senior observers of states where polls were held including Priyanka Gandhi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, senior leaders Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh made detailed presentations and submitted reports.
They listed reasons behind the party’s defeat and its shortcomings while suggesting measures to revive its electoral fortunes.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik were the only three from the Group of 23 leaders who participated in the meeting of the CWC, which has a large number of Gandhi family loyalists.
The G-23 leaders said they were part of the organisation and would remain so and would do everything to strengthen it to ensure its success at the hustings, sources said.
They also blamed the media for creating a hype about the so-called G-23 grouping, saying they never formed any separate group.
Surjewala said the CWC discussed what went wrong in assembly elections and senior leaders including Azad and Digvijay Singh gave suggestions.
A statement adopted by the CWC said the recent assembly election results of five states are a “cause of serious concern” for the party.
The Congress accepted that due to shortcomings in its strategy, it could not effectively “expose the misrule” of BJP state governments in four states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa — and overcome the anti-incumbency in Punjab in the short time after effecting a change of leadership.
Few months before the polls, the Congress had removed Amarinder Singh as Punjab chief minister, replacing him with Charanjit Singh Channi.
The sources said Punjab in-charge Harish Chaudhary listed infighting and the late removal of Amarinder Singh as the main reasons for the party’s decimation.
Priyanka Gandhi said there was nothing in the name of organisation in Uttar Pradesh when she took over and the steps taken now would “bear fruit” in the future.
“Congress represents the hopes of millions of Indians against political authoritarianism prevailing in the country today and the party is fully conscious of its immense responsibility,” the CWC said.
While humbly accepting the electoral verdict of the latest round of assembly elections, the Congress assures its workers and the people of India that it will continue to remain a vigilant and vibrant opposition, the statement said.
The Congress will be fully prepared to face the electoral challenges in the election going states in 2022 and 2023 as well as in the Lok Sabha elections 2024, it said.
The CWC also “unanimously” reaffirmed its faith in the leadership Sonia Gandhi and urged the Congress president to lead from the front, address the organisational weaknesses, effect necessary and comprehensive organisational changes in order to take on the political challenges.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh did not attend the meeting. Senior party leader A K Antony was also not present as he has contracted Covid.
The Congress lost Punjab to the Aam Aadmi Party, could not wrest Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur from the BJP and the party’s tally in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh fell to its lowest.
While Sonia Gandhi has not been actively campaigning for some time, Rahul Gandhi, along with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, had been the star campaigner for the Congress in the polls, with the brother-sister duo also playing a major role in key decisions of the party.
Despite a high-pitched campaign led by Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress could manage to win only two of the 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh with the vote share plummeting to a meagre 2.33 percent and most of its candidates losing security deposits.
Ahead of the meeting, the chorus for making Rahul Gandhi the Congress president again grew louder as several leaders and workers voiced support for him to take on the mantle of party chief.
Gehlot said no one was taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Rahul Gandhi does and was fighting resolutely.
“All of us want that Rahul ji should take on the mantle of party leadership,” he told reporters.
Rahul Gandhi had resigned as Congress president after the party suffered its second consecutive defeat in general elections in 2019.
Sonia Gandhi, who took over the reins of the party again as interim president, had also offered to quit in August 2020 after strong criticism by a section of leaders, referred to as G-23, but the CWC had urged her to continue.
Earlier, top Congress leaders today discussed the party’s strategy for the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament and decided to work in coordination with other like-minded parties to raise issues of public importance.
The meeting of the Congress Parliamentary strategy group was held at the residence of party President Sonia Gandhi.
“We discussed the issues to be raised during the session starting Monday. We will work in coordination with other like-minded parties to raise issues of public importance during the session,” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters after the meeting.
“Among various issues to be raised during the session include evacuation and safety of Indian students in Ukraine, inflation, unemployment, labour matters, MSP for farmers as promised by the Government. We discussed all these issues at the meeting,” he also said.
Among others who also attended the meeting include Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, K Suresh, Manickam Tagore and Manish Tewari.
The meeting of the Congress Parliamentary strategy group is held before every session of Parliament.
The second part of the Budget session starts tomorrow and will continue till April 8. (PTI)