Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi has asked her party to begin the process of replacing her as party chief even as demands from across party units sought a Gandhi to lead the Old Party. In the Congress Working Committee meeting, Sonia Gandhi offered to step down but was asked to continue by the former prime minister and veteran colleague Manmohan Singh. The decision came after some Congress leaders, including ex-ministers, wrote to her demanding "changes to the leadership". The letter by former ministers and some MPs was believed to have been written a few weeks ago. The letter comes in the backdrop of the exit of young leaders of the Congress over the past year, increased factionalism in state units, a continued sense of drift over the direction of the party, and uncertainty about leadership.
It is also true that the different voices have emerged within the party with one section comprising sitting MPs and former ministers demanding a collective leadership, while another group (for example former CM of MP Digvijay Singh) has sought the return of Rahul Gandhi to the helm. The Congress has not seen such coordinated dissent in its recent history, at least not since Sonia Gandhi established her grip firmly on the leadership at the beginning of 2000. The party was also in power for 10 years from 2004 to 2014. However, since 2014, however, tension has been simmering in the party. There have long been murmurs against Rahul Gandhi, but the disconnect between him and other senior leaders has now reached a point where it had to come out in the open in some way or the other.
Some senior leaders have also opposed the CWC and said that there was no locus for a CWC to be called like this. It violates the provisions of Congress's Constitution. Leaders who have signed the letter quote Article XVIII (h) of Congress Constitution which states that "in the event of any emergency by reason of any cause such as the death or resignation of the President elected as above, the senior-most - General Secretary will discharge the routine functions of the President until the Working Committee appoints a provisional President pending the election of a regular President by the AICC. They claim that as per the Constitution of the party, no AICC meet has been called in the past 365 days since Sonia Gandhi took charge as the interim president after Rahul Gandhi stepped down following the party's debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. The provisional president is to oversee the picking of a regular president but no move has been made during the one year now. The letter recognizes the scale of the challenge faced by Congress. Congress should act on it now.
- Prabhakar Purandare