Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with Congress MPs on Thursday saw arguments and sharp criticism by younger leaders who were seen to blame the party’s last government for its massive downfall since.
The sparring between former Union Ministers who were part of the Manmohan Singh government and leaders identified as members of Rahul Gandhi’s team has once again highlighted the rift within the Congress since the party lost power to the BJP in 2014.
The younger leaders reportedly said those who were part of the last UPA government should take the blame for the Congress’s rapid decline. Some of them also called for Rahul Gandhi’s return as Congress president, pointing out that there was no consensus on any other candidate.
Manmohan Singh, the two-time Prime Minister whose second term ended in a haze of corruption and policy paralysis allegations, did not say a word during the four-hour video meeting, say sources.
Rahul Gandhi quit the Congress top post after the party’s national election debacle last year, the second in a row. His mother Sonia Gandhi took over as interim chief until the party settled on a new president. Over a year later, that has not changed.
The clash reportedly began with the veteran Congress Rajya Sabha members flagging their concern about the party’s failure to capitalize on topics that seem to have hobbled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government this year, including the economic slowdown, the coronavirus response and the dispute with China.
The senior leaders reportedly assessed the Congress’s offensive as too weak and disorganised to dent PM Modi’s support. They suggested that there should be more introspection and consultation.
Given that Rahul Gandhi has led that offensive, with videos and daily tweets, younger MPs objected. Rajiv Satav, 45, reportedly cut in that a “complete introspection” was needed, right from the Congress’s 2014 defeat.
Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal said, according to sources: “We need complete introspection, yes. The BJP government has performed badly and needs to be attacked, but we have to look at ourselves and how we have performed. There is no debate, discussion within the party and we need to analyse why the leadership has failed.”
The party’s seniors questioned the lack of discussion, debate and consultation.
Mr Satav commented that it was not a war between the old guard and the new guard. “We need to analyse the role of how the Congress performed in the UPA period, why didn’t ministers meet workers and why did they lose touch with reality. Why has the party failed in Maharashtra and Delhi,” he said.
He was among those who called for Rahul Gandhi’s return at a time younger leaders seem to be deserting the Congress. In March, Jyotiraditya Scindia joined the BJP, taking down the Congress government in Maharashtra.
Now Sachin Pilot has launched a revolt that threatens the Rajasthan Congress government.
Both were in Rahul Gandhi’s close circle.