'Fighting to save Congress from dropping to 25 Lok Sabha seats in 2024'

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Sonia Gandhi at a virtual meeting with CMs of seven states in New Delhi on August 26, 2020.

NEW DELHI: The controversy arising out of the

Congress Working Committee

(

CWC

) meeting last month over election of a full-time party president is unlikely to die down. The party seems to have been divided into two camps - those who want the Nehru-Gandhi family at the helm and those who demand an active and efficient leadership.
The dissenters, led by 23 senior leaders who wrote a letter to interim president

Sonia Gandhi

ahead of the CWC meet held on August 24, and the Nehru-Gandhi loyalists appear to be on a collision course.
With attacks and counter-attacks being hurled from both the sides, the controversy may snowball into a major fight within the Congress.
Talking to the timesofindia.com, one of the signatories to the letter warned of a “fight to finish” over the presidency of the party.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said, “We wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. We jotted down whatever we felt was right. However, some leaders did not like it. They leaked the letter and tried to humiliate us in public.”
The leader said they have been behaving in a decent and sophisticated manner so far but would give a tough fight in the organisational elections. If any of the Nehru-Gandhis would contest for the president’s post, we would also field our own candidate, he said.
“If they have the strength, let them win. But we will try not to let the fight go unchallenged,” he said.

Rallying behind Sonia Gandhi and

Rahul Gandhi

, the CWC criticised the 23 leaders for writing the letter to the Congress chief. Defending the Gandhi leadership, the CWC said the leaders stood up to the BJP government and held it accountable for its “misdeeds”.
A couple of days later, Sonia Gandhi made some appointments in the party’s office-bearers in both houses of Parliament.
In the Lok Sabha, Kaliabor MP

Gaurav Gogoi

from Assam was elevated and made the deputy leader of the house while Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu from Punjab was appointed as one of the whips.
While Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury is the leader of the Congress in the lower house, K Suresh is the chief whip and Virudhunagar MP Maniackam Tagore from Tamil Nadu is a whip.
A committee comprising these five leaders has been constituted to look after floor management.
Similarly another five-member committee has been formed in the Rajya Sabha.

Earlier, leader of the opposition the Rajya Sabha

Ghulam Nabi Azad

and deputy leader of opposition besides chief whip Bhubaneswar Kalita looked after the floor management. After Kalita quit the party last year, the post had been lying vacant.
Jairam Ramesh

has been appointed as the new chief whip in the upper house. Congress treasurer Ahmed Patel and general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal have been appointed as two additional members in the committee.
These appointments are being viewed as a snub to the dissenters.
For instance, Thiruvananthapuram MP

Shashi Tharoor

from Kerala and Anandpur Sahib MP

Manish Tewari

from Punjab are said to have been bypassed in the Lok Sabha.
Similarly, the wings of Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma are said to have been clipped with the formation of the committee and inclusion of Ahmed Patel and K Suresh.
However, one of the dissenters said they were not hankering after any post and these appointments did not affect them at all.
“Our ambition is not to wish for party posts. Our mission is to ensure that the Congress does not dip to 25 from 52 Lok Sabha MPs in the next elections. We desire to achieve the target of 272 MPs in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
He said, “As far as the appointments are concerned, I challenge that our performance inside Parliament has been better than the new appointees. Compare the attendance, number of questions asked and the number and the kind of debates we have participated in.”
“Besides that, also consider the number of times Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has embarrassed the party by his comments in the Lok Sabha,” he further said.
He was referring to several gaffes by Chowdhury such as stating that Kashmir was not an internal matter of India but was being monitored by the UN since 1948.
While opposing the suspension of seven Congress MPs, he left the party red-faced when he stated that a pickpocket could not be sent to the gallows (“Jeb katua ko phansi ke takhte pe nahi chadaya ja sakta hai"). He meant that the suspension of the party MPs was disproportionate to the mistake they had committed.
He again embarrassed the party by calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah as “infiltrators”, and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman as “Nirbala (weak)”.

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