Gandhis begin talks with Congress ‘rebels’ seeking reforms in party

The meeting was held at Sonia's residence and was attended by the former party chief, Rahul Gandhi

Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi has assured opposition leaders that ‘they will not find Congress wanting’ in the fight against the BJP | File Photo: PTI

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday began discussions with a group of rebel party leaders who had written to her in August seeking organisational changes in the party, to elect the new party chief.

This is the first time that Mrs. Gandhi is meeting party leaders in person since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, besides being the first in a series of such meetings scheduled over the next 10 days.

The meeting on Saturday was held at Mrs. Gandhi’s residence and was attended by her son and former party chief Rahul Gandhi. Spokesperson of the party, Randeep Surjewala, has said that “99.9%” Congress leaders want Rahul Gandhi back in the top post.

The meeting saw the participation of both the rebels as well as loyalists of the Gandhis. It included some of Sonia Gandhi’s close associates and is the first effort by the Congress leadership for a rapprochement with those who had raised questions over the leadership.

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Those attending the meeting from among the letter-writers are Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, deputy leader of the party in the Upper House Anand Sharma, former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan, and MPs Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Shashi Tharoor.

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath and senior leader P Chidambaram are also part of the meeting, the sources said. Among Sonia loyalists at the discussion that will include a range of issues, primarily organisational elections, are A K Antony, Ambika Soni, Ashok Gehlot and Harish Rawat, besides Pawan Bansal.

Sources said a number of organisational issues is likely to be discussed at the meeting. The Congress has already decided to hold elections for the post of Congress president and that process is underway.

In August, at least 23 senior Congress leaders had written to Mrs. Gandhi demanding a full-time, visible president and overhauling of the organisational structure including elections to the Congress Working Committee and reconstitution of the Parliamentary board.