24/08/2020 11:30 AM IST | Updated 24/08/2020 5:05 PM IST

Kapil Sibal Withdraws Tweet, Ghulam Nabi Azad Says Rahul Did Not Make 'Collusion' Remark

Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi has asked the party took look for her replacement.

Adnan Abidi / reuters
Sonia Gandhi in a file photo. 

At the Congress Working Committee meeting on Monday Sonia Gandhi said she would like to be relieved of the duties of the Congress president and asked her party members to begin looking for a replacement. 

High drama ensued with Kapil Sibal alleging in a tweet that Rahul Gandhi had accused them of colluding with the BJP and Ghulam Nabi Azad saying he would resign if it was ever proven. But later in the day both leaders clarified that it was communicated to them that Rahul Gandhi never made such a statements. 

Sibal withdrew his tweet and Azad clarified the issue in a statement. 

This comes after 23 party leader in a letter, addressed to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi,  criticised the functioning of the Congress Working Committee and highlighted how over-centralisation of the organisation and micro-management in the party has beeb counter-productive.

While the party has failed to be an effective opposition to the BJP, Sonia Gandhi took over as interim president after Rahul Gandhi resigned as Congress chief after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 

Rahul alleges collusion with BJP, Kapil Sibal denies charge 

Kapil Sibal had said on Twitter on Monday morning, “Rahul Gandhi says “ we are colluding with BJP” Succeeded in Rajasthan High Court defending the Congress Party Defending party in Manipur to bring down BJP Govt. Last 30 years have never made a statement in favour of BJP on any issue. Yet “ we are colluding with the BJP”!” 

Sources told NDTV that Azad offered to quit the party if it was proved that he was colluding with the BJP. 

However, later in the day, Kapil Sibal withdrew his tweet and Ghulam Nabi Azad withdrew his statement. 

Kapil Sibal later tweeted, “Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him. I therefore withdraw my tweet.”

Meanwhile Azad told ANI, “Rahul Gandhi never said it, neither in CWC or outside, that this letter (to Sonia Gandhi about party leadership) was written in collusion with BJP. 

Reports said that former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader AK Anthony wanted Sonia Gandhi to continue as party chief. 

 Show of support from several leaders

Amid dissent from some party leaders, others have shown absolute support to the Gandhis. 

The Indian Express reported that through letters and statements, leaders like Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, his Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Kerala’s Mullappally Ramachandran, Karnataka’s DK Shivakumar and Tamil Nadu’s KS Alagiri were among the many leaders who showed support for the Gandhis. 

Several other leaders pointed out that it was Sonia Gandhi’s leadership that had led the party to victory in 2004 and 2009. 

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath was quoted by PTI as saying, “We must not forget that in spite of the canard against Smt. Sonia Gandhi, she led the Congress Party to victory in 2004 and made Atal Bihari Vajpayee sit at home.”

He said that it was “absurd” to question her leadership. 

Meanwhile, Digvijaya Singh said it was time for the party to unite.  He said in a tweet, “This is time for the party to unite. Not for difference of opinion. The sacrifice the family had done for the country during independence, and after is well known. I do not agree with what is being shown in the media. I cannot imagine the Congress without the Nehru-Gandhi family.” 

He further said that if Sonia Gandhi wanted to leave the party leadership, Rahul Gandhi must take it up. “The common Congress worker of the country will not accept anyone else,” Singh said. 

Rahul, Priyanka don’t want top post

However, reports suggest that neither Rahul Gandhi, nor Priyanka Gandhi want to take up the post of party president. 

A report inNDTV said that Rahul Gandhi wants to continue in his role of opposing the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The sources was quoted as saying, “Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also clear she will remain as a General Secretary and not take on any leadership role of the party.” 

What did the letter say? 

The letter was signed by several prominent Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, PJ Kurian, Renuka Chaudhary, Milind Deora, Ajay Singh and many others. It called for a “full time” leadership that is active in the field and “visible” in party offices, dissolution of powers to state units and revamping the CWC in line with the party constitution.

PTI reported that it highlighted the gravity of the challenges that the Congress faced and said that it was “imperative” to urgently establish an institutional leadership mechanism to collectively guide the party’s revival

The leaders are said to have alleged that the CWC was not “effectively guiding” the party anymore in mobilising public opinion against the BJP government. They said that its meetings were “episodic” and convened in reaction to political developments, according to the sources.

They said that the party has witnessed a steady decline reflected in successive electoral verdicts in 2014 and 2019, noting that the reasons were manifold.

The letter stated that even after 14 months of the 2019 verdict, the Congress party has not undertaken “honest introspection” to analyse the reasons for its continued decline

It also said that in recent years the institutional process of “merit-based and consensus-backed selection has been disrupted”. 

Suggestions given in the letter 

In the letter, the leaders suggested appointments of District Congress Committee presidents from the AICC should be stopped henceforth, and DCC presidents should be appointed from the state capital by in-charge general secretary in coordination with Pradesh Congress Committee presidents, as per sources.

The top leaders are also learnt to have called for urgent constitution of the central parliamentary board for collective thinking and decision making on organisational matters, policies and programmes

The leaders demanded that the central election committee be reconstituted comprising leaders with organisational background and active field of knowledge and experience

The letter also stressed that the Nehru-Gandhi family will “always remain an integral part of the collective leadership” of the Congress party

The leaders acknowledged the visionary leadership of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and asserted that his enduring legacy will always remain a source of guidance and inspiration for the Congress, reported PTI

(With PTI inputs)