CWC meet: Seven hours of fire­works

Four of the 23 sig­na­to­ries to the let­ter were at the re­ceiv­ing end of at­tacks by other Congress mem­bers at the meet­ing

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - News - Au­rangzeb Naqsh­bandi

NEW DELHI: For seven hours on Mon­day, the Congress Work­ing Com­mit­tee (CWC) meet­ing saw fire­works with 48 of the 52 mem­bers of the body com­ing down heav­ily on lead­ers who signed a let­ter ad­dressed to party chief So­nia Gandhi ask­ing for struc­tural changes in the in­ter­nal pro­cesses of the party.

Four of the 23 sig­na­to­ries – Leader of Op­po­si­tion in Ra­jya Sabha Ghu­lam Nabi Azad, gen­eral sec­re­tary Mukul Wasnik, for­mer Union min­is­ters Anand Sharma and Jitin Prasada – found them­selves at the re­ceiv­ing end of at­tacks by other mem­bers.

Th­ese four lead­ers, along with se­nior lead­ers Kapil Sibal, Man­ish Te­wari, Shashi Tha­roor, Bhupin­der Singh Hooda, Prithviraj Chavan and others -- sought a com­plete over­haul of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, de­manded for­ma­tion of a par­lia­men­tary board, and main­tained the Gand­his will al­ways be an in­te­gral part of a “col­lec­tive lead­er­ship”. A Congress func­tionary said the let­ter was trig­gered by ap­pre­hen­sion among th­ese lead­ers that the party high com­mand might name a third per­son as the in­terim chief till in­ter­nal elec­tions are held as both So­nia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were said to not be keen to oc­cupy the post.

“They wanted to scut­tle that move and en­sure that a leader ac­cept­able to all oc­cu­pies the post,” he said on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The CWC meet­ing started at 11am with party gen­eral sec­re­tary KC Venu­gopal read­ing out So­nia Gandhi’s let­ter ad­dressed to him on Au­gust 20, ask­ing him to ini­ti­ate the process to elect a new pres­i­dent. So­nia Gandhi told Azad he sent her the let­ter on Au­gust 7 and then a re­minder on Au­gust 15.

“It was hurt­ful. You know me so well, Azad sahib. How could you think that I will take any de­ci­sion on the lead­er­ship is­sue with­out con­sult­ing party lead­ers? You could al­ways come and meet me. I re­tired long ago. I don’t want to hang on to this chair. So what’s the mo­tive of this let­ter?” a CWC mem­ber quoted her as hav­ing said at the meet­ing.

Rahul Gandhi ques­tioned the tim­ing of the let­ter. “It was writ­ten at a time when my mother was in hos­pi­tal and you at­tacked her when she was at her weak­est and also when the party was vul­ner­a­ble, fight­ing the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] in Mad­hya Pradesh and Ra­jasthan,” the CWC mem­ber quoted him as hav­ing said.

“Chal­leng­ing her author­ity and talk­ing about the col­lec­tive lead­er­ship was an in­sult to her. I never wanted her to be the Congress pres­i­dent. She too didn’t want to be­come again,” Rahul Gandhi was quoted as say­ing.

Rahul Gandhi also asked Azad how the let­ter was re­ported in the press when the cov­er­ing note said there was only one copy handed over to the Congress pres­i­dent and all other copies de­stroyed.

Party trea­surer Ahmed Pa­tel crit­i­cised the dis­senters. Nam­ing

Azad, Wasnik and Sharma, he said they were oc­cu­py­ing key posts in the party and should not have writ­ten such a let­ter.

“I had ad­vised you not to write any let­ter and told you that we will go and meet So­nia Gandhi per­son­ally, but you still went ahead. Do you want So­nia Gandhi to sit at home? Are you do­ing any favour to the Gand­his by say­ing they too will be part of the col­lec­tive lead­er­ship? One may be an­gry over cer­tain de­ci­sions in the party but that doesn’t mean you start writ­ing let­ters. I too am out for the last three years but that is okay,” Pa­tel said.

Pa­tel also told Sharma that he should have re­alised what he was writ­ing when he drafted the let­ter. “You are talk­ing about col­lec­tive lead­er­ship. When you met Baba Ramdev at the air­port, did you go af­ter con­sult­ing the then Prime Min­is­ter (Man­mo­han Singh) and the Congress pres­i­dent (So­nia Gandhi)?” Pa­tel said. Sibal along with Pranab Mukher­jee had met Ramdev at the Delhi air­port in June 2011 to dis­suade him from launch­ing a fast dur­ing an ag­i­ta­tion against cor­rup­tion.

For­mer PM Man­mo­han Singh urged So­nia Gandhi to con­tinue on the post till Rahul Gandhi be­comes the pres­i­dent.

For­mer de­fence min­is­ter AK Antony said if So­nia Gandhi was un­will­ing then Rahul Gandhi should take over. “Weak­en­ing the high com­mand is weak­en­ing the party. How can my col­leagues write such a let­ter? This is cruel and un­for­tu­nate.”

Party gen­eral sec­re­tary

Am­bika Soni de­manded ac­tion against the 23 lead­ers. She said when the party can take ac­tion against block and district lead­ers for in­dis­ci­pline why can’t it do the same against th­ese lead­ers.

Wasnik in­sisted he was a party loy­al­ist and would never go against the Gandhi fam­ily.

“I owe a lot to So­nia Gandhi. How can any­one say that we did it when she was in hos­pi­tal? I wish her a long life. No­body can ques­tion my loy­alty to the Congress party. I am ready to face any ac­tion.”

Sharma said the let­ter is not against the Gand­his but only seeks to point out to cer­tain is­sues in the Congress. “I joined the Congress at the age of 18 years and will die as a Con­gress­man.”

When Azad was ex­plain­ing the rea­son be­hind the let­ter, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Ad­hir Ran­jan Choud­hary in­ter­vened and said “You are mak­ing lame ex­cuses and de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble”. At this point, So­nia Gandhi asked Ad­hir to switch off his mike and not speak out of turn.

Prasada said he was ready to ac­cept the CWC de­ci­sion and what­ever ac­tion it takes against him. “We had flagged cer­tain or­gan­i­sa­tional is­sues and in no way it was against the Gand­his.”

For­mer Union min­is­ter RPN Singh praised So­nia Gandhi for be­ing avail­able 24x7 to guide the party dur­ing Jhark­hand elec­tions. “We won the elec­tions. Se­condly, I want to tell all CWC mem­bers that we should all learn pol­i­tics from So­nia Gandhi.”

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