Congress to decide today who dynasty’s remote-controlled device would be

Top Congress leaders held a meeting with its State unit chiefs, leaders of its State legislature parties general secretaries and in-charges

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Congress Working Committee meeting
Congress Working Committee meeting in progress

New Delhi: The Congress’s top decision-making body, CWC, met here on Saturday and began deliberations on finding Rahul Gandhi’s successor, even as few believe the replacement president will be the real head of the party. The party’s top brass, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Ahmed Patel and P Chidambaram, went into a huddle at the All India Congress Committee headquarters here to find a solution to the leadership crisis triggered by Rahul Gandhi’s resignation following the Lok Sabha polls debacle.

Besides Rahul Gandhi, several State unit chiefs of the party, including Congress’s Rajasthan president Sachin Pilot, were present in the meeting. This meeting was convened after several senior party leaders such as Shashi Tharoor and Karan Singh voiced concerns over lack of clarity on the leadership issue.

The top Congress leaders held a meeting on Friday with its State unit chiefs, leaders of its State legislature parties, general secretaries and in-charges, where they were told by Rahul Gandhi that the new party chief would be appointed within the next few days after wider consultations, sources said.

The meeting was held at the party’s Gurdwara Raqab Ganj Road “war room” to discuss the government’s decision to abrogate the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir and divide the State into two Union territories.

“Some frank talking marked @incIndia consultative meet with a wide range of party leaders last evening. Convened on Kashmir, the comments went beyond and urged the party to be more pro-active in anticipating major issues and seizing the initiative. Commendable exercise; should be repeated,” Tharoor tweeted.

Senior Congress leaders met Sonia Gandhi at her residence here on Friday. Sources said senior leaders Ahmed Patel, A K Antony and KC Venugopal were learnt to have discussed with Gandhi certain names. One of whom could be made the interim president of the party.

The names of senior Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik, Mallikarjun Kharge, as well as younger leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot are doing the rounds for the top post. Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora earlier this week batted for either Scindia or Pilot to succeed Rahul Gandhi. A number of party men have expressed their opinion in public, saying the delay in selecting the new Congress chief is harming the party.

Last Sunday, Tharoor had said the Congress Working Committee or CWC should appoint an interim president immediately and then hold polls for the party chief’s post as a leader elected by workers will be empowered and have more credibility.

Interestingly, even though Rahul Gandhi had ruled out the possibility of a family member succeeding him, several leaders such as Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Tharoor have voiced support for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra throwing her hat in the ring.

The party has also been grappling with a series of desertions by leaders from Karnataka and Maharashtra, the latest being that of ex-Congress Rajya Sabha chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita and MP Sanjay Sinh. Several leaders cited indecision and confusion within the rank and file of the party as a reason to quit. The party is hoping to resolve the leadership issue and move forward quickly with assembly elections in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana coming up.

But it is clear from the openly voiced opinions of some Congress leaders that no leader can tower over the No. 1 family of the party. Sanjay Nirupam tweeted, “Only Gandhi family can keep (the) party united.”

The Congress leaders who do not toe this line must quit! “The Congress leadership is trying to completely destroy the party. No one can stop the Congress party from destruction,” Bhubaneswar Kalita, the party’s whip in Rajya Sabha, had said in a letter in the context of his party’s stand on the government’s move to turn Article 370 defunct and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.