CONGRESS CONUNDRUM | We are not dissenters: 'Group of 23'

A day after being dissed at a stormy Congress Working Committee meeting over their letter seeking urgent organisational reforms, several members of the ‘group of 23’ said on Tuesday they are “not dissenters” but “proponents of revival”. Many of them also backed Sonia Gandhi remaining at the helm.

The letter was not a challenge to the leadership but a parchment of action to strengthen the party, Congress MP Vivek Tankha said. Former Union minister Mukul Wasnik said those who saw the letter as an “offence” will also soon realise that the issues raised are worth consideration.

Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said it is an “admitted fact” that the organisation is not in a position to take forward ‘the Congress philosophy and protect democracy’. He also asserted that Sonia Gandhi’s leadership is always required.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, another signatory to the letter, posted a cryptic tweet, saying: “It’s not about a post. It’s about my country which matters most.”

Tankha took to Twitter to address the controversy surrounding their letter which led to a high drama at the CWC meet where many leaders, including former party chief Rahul Gandhi, lashed out at the letter writers.

“Friends, we are not dissenters but proponents of revival. The letter was not a challenge to leadership but a parchment of action to strengthen the party. Universally, truth is best defence whether it be Court or Public Affairs. History acknowledges the brave & not the timid (sic),” Tankha said in a tweet.

Replying to Tankha, Wasnik tweeted, “Well said. Sooner than later those who saw the letter as an offence will also realise that the issues raised are worth consideration.”

Senior party leader Anand Sharma also tagged Tankha’s tweet and said, “The letter was written with the best interest of the party in our hearts and conveying shared concerns over the present environment in the country and sustained assault on the foundational values of the constitution.”

Many members from the ‘group of 23’ refused to comment on the matter officially, while some of them referred to the CWC resolution for the inner-party issues being raised only within the party and not in media or public fora “in the interest of propriety and discipline”.

After the seven-hour meeting of the party’s top decision-making body, the CWC made it clear that no one will be permitted to undermine or weaken the party and its leadership.

Some senior Congress leaders, including Sibal, Wasnik, Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari, had met at their senior colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad’s house here on Monday evening soon after the CWC debated their letter.

Having a “full time, active and visible” leadership, devolution of powers to state units and revamping the CWC in line with the party constitution are some of the key suggestions made by the 23 senior Congress leaders in the letter to Sonia Gandhi to revive the organisation.

Sibal, who is not a part of the CWC, had hit out at Rahul Gandhi on Twitter on Monday for a purported remark slamming the letter writers. He withdrew his tweet a little later after being “informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him”.

The Congress also officially denied that Rahul Gandhi had accused any party leader of “colluding with the BJP”.

In addition to Azad, Moily, Sibal, Sharma, Tewari, Tharoor, Wasnik and Tankha, the signatories to the letter included P J Kurian, Renuka Chaudhary, Milind Deora, Ajay Singh, and Jitin Prasada.

The ‘group of 23’ also included former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Rajender Kaur Bhattal and Prithviraj Chavan; former PCC chiefs Raj Babbar (UP), Arvinder Singh Lovely (Delhi) and Kaul Singh Thakur (Himachal); current Bihar campaign chief Akhilesh Singh, former Haryana Speaker Kuldeep Sharma; former Delhi Speaker Yoganand Shastri and former MP Sandeep Dixit.