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New Delhi: After the meeting held at Congress president Sonia Gandhi's residence which was also attended by some of the 23 leaders who had called for sweeping changes in the grand old party, news agencies reported that a unanimous call was raised for Rahul Gandhi to return as the party president. However, the Gandhi scion has reportedly insisted that the decision to elect the party chief should be left to the electoral process of the party.

However, this is still a deviation from Rahul Gandhi's earlier stance in the past party few meetings, when he had outright refused to reassume the mantle of the Congress president.

"All leaders want Rahul Gandhi to take the responsibility of the party president, at which point he said it should be left to the electoral process of the party," news agency ANI reported citing sources.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday met a group of leaders, including some who had written to her seeking complete organisational overhaul, where they discussed ways to strengthen the party at all levels and it was decided to hold conclaves similar to Panchmarhi and Shimla to chalk out the way ahead.

The five-hour meeting, which also included some of Sonia Gandhi's close associates, was significant as it was the first effort by the Congress leadership for a rapprochement with the 'letter-writers' who had raised questions over the leadership.

This was also the first time that Gandhi met Congress leaders in person since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rahul Gandhi's leadership is necessary for Congress to move forward and the party will organise a 'Chintan Shivir' soon to discuss the challenges before the party, Congress leaders said on Saturday after the meet.

Speaking to the media after a five-hour-long meeting, former union minister Pawan Bansal said the leaders said the party needs the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.

"Everyone said that the party needs Rahul Gandhi's leadership and we should not care for those who want to divert attention from the agenda. A total of 19 leaders including Sonia Gandhi were present in the meeting. Sonia Gandhi told Congress like a family and said that we will work together as a family," Bansal said.

He said leaders present at the meeting openly stated their point of view and party has initiated the process for the election of party president.

Asked if any party leader raised questions regarding the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, Bansal said, "no leader criticized Rahul Gandhi in the meeting and everyone supported him." Six out of 23 leaders, who wrote the letter to Sonia Gandhi seeking sweeping changes including "full-time and active" leadership and organizational elections, were also present at the meeting.

Apart from Sonia Gandhi, the meeting was attended by Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AK Antony, Ambika Soni, P Chidambaram, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, Bhakta Charan Das, Pawan Bansal, Ajay Maken, Harish Rawat, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Manish Tiwari, Prithviraj Chavan, Vivek Tankha, Bhupendra Singh Hooda, Shashi Tharoor and Anand Sharma.

(With inputs from agencies)

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