Mumbai: Even as the Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi has offered to step down ahead of the crucial Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting slated for Monday, the party is clearly split into two factions.
A group of 23 party leaders, including the Chief Ministers, sitting MPs and legislators and a former CM and ministers, are insisting that the Congress party should have a new President by holding intra party elections, while another group, especially the young Turks in the party, want Rahul Gandhi to return as party chief to take on the BJP.
However, prominent leaders in the group of 23, on Sunday told the Free Press Journal that they are strongly against the nomination or appointment of a "dummy" President, in the event Sonia Gandhi sticks to her move to step down at the CWC meeting.
A former Union Minister, who was one of the signatories to the letter sent to Sonia Gandhi a fortnight ago, said, "The party is rapidly losing its relevance in the absence of a full time Party President and weakening of organisational structure from the top to bottom. Although Rahul Gandhi refused to take over the reins, he is calling the shots by back-seat driving which does not augur well for the party. Either he should lead the party from the front by taking everyone along or stop running the party by remote from backstage," he said.
Another former union minister alleged that Rahul and his brigade were responsible for widening the communication gap between Sonia and others, and they were now unable to access her directly. "Rahul Gandhi and his supporters have practically taken control of 10 Janpath and the party headquarters in Delhi. It was quite disturbing that leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Gulam Nabi Azad could not talk to Sonia and was told to wait. The wait was getting longer," he noted.
According to the former Chief Minister, the Screening Committees at the state level has been abolished and it is now a one man show with party MP KC Venugopal, who is also the General Secretary (Organisational Work), calling the shots. It is he who will decide the party candidates for all the 543 Lok Sabha seats, and in the state polls.
"The lack of elections in states, districts and at the taluka level is a matter of real worry. In most of the cases, appointments are made through nomination and without due consultation process neglecting the views of local leaders. Elections are rarely held. The need of the hour is to strengthen the organisation by giving due importance to local leaders. This is necessary to fight against the BJP," he noted.
One of the party MPs cited a recent incident when Jyotiraditya Scindia, who was sulking at being slighted by Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh duo in Madhya Pradesh, could not get an appointment for four months with Sonia Gandhi. Similarly, Sachin Pilot, who called off his rebellion to remain within the party, could not meet Sonia for three months. "The Nehru and the Gandhi family will always remain at the core, but it is high time the party has a President who will regain lost glory and become a formidable opposition to the BJP. Rahul is still not serious about taking over the reins but wants to nonetheless control the party. This will endanger the party's survival. The Rahul Brigade does not understand that Modi wants Rahul to be centre stage as he does not see him as a political threat. This perception needs to change at the earliest with the election of a new President," he said.