Delhi: Rahul Gandhi said he is “ready to work for the party as all desire” at a meeting today with Congress “dissenters” who had written a letter criticizing the leadership and calling for an overhaul earlier this year. The comment, greeted by applause from all present including the rebels, has raised speculation about the 50-year-old returning as Congress president as the party prepares to elect a chief in the New Year.
The seven-hour meeting between Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the so-called “rebels” on the lawns of the Congress interim president’s 10 Janpath home marked the first move towards reconciliation after months of feuding and resignations.
Rahul Gandhi said, “I am willing to work for the party as all of you desire,” senior Congress leader Pawan Bansal said after the meeting. The former Congress president reportedly also agreed that “better communication” was needed and the party needed to strengthen itself at the booth-level.
His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the Congress general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, also talked about rebuilding the organization and “taking care of grassroots workers”.
Congress leaders said “no one was critical of Rahul Gandhi” at the meeting and the rebels “supported him”.
Rahul Gandhi quit as Congress president after the party’s national election defeat last year, forcing Sonia Gandhi to take over as interim chief until the party elected a new chief.
On Friday, top spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “99.9 per cent” leaders in Congress wanted Rahul Gandhi to lead the party again but the final decision was his.
Over a year since his resignation, the Congress has not arrived at any clear solution to its leadership crisis. The party has also suffered an unending losing streak, not just in states, but also in local polls in states like Kerala and Rajasthan. It was completely outmaneuvered by the BJP in states like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where rebellion brought its governments crashing down. In Rajasthan, a revolt has been barely kept under the lid.
A letter in August by 23 Congress leaders – dubbed the G-23 – noted the leadership drift and called for an “active and visible leadership” and collective decision-making.