A year after its defeat in the 2019 General elections and its steady decline, 23 senior Congress leaders, including 5 former Chief Ministers, many Congress Working Committee members, incumbent MPs, and several former Union Ministers, have written a letter to interim Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, calling for a complete overhaul of the party, from top to bottom.
On the expected lines, the rebellious letter sparked a furore within the Congress party, with the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi allegedly accusing the signatories of the letter of colluding with the BJP, an allegation that was later denied. Kapil Sibal, one of the signatories of the letter, reacted to Rahul Gandhi’s purported allegations, tweeted that he had never expected of being accused of conniving with the BJP. However, shortly thereafter he withdrew the tweet, claiming Rahul Gandhi had personally clarified with him.
Here’s the verbatim reproduction of the letter that was written by the rebel Congress leaders to the interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as shared by Akhilesh Mishra:-
Dear Hon. Congress President,
We the undersigned, most of whom have spent a lifetime in the Congress, take this opportunity to convey our concerns over the prevailing political atmosphere and views on the organisational affairs of the Congress Party.
India is, today facing the gravest Political, Social and Economic challenges in its history since independence. The core values of our Constitution are under a sustained assault. The communal and divisive agenda of BJP and its affiliates are dominating the political narrative. It is in conflict with the very idea of inclusive India bequeathed to us by Mahatma Gandhi and the founding fathers of the Republic.
An environment of fear and insecurity has engulfed the country. Congress has a duty to rise to the challenge. It must reassure the people that, it will defend and secure their fundamental rights.
This can be done only by a revitalised and resolute Congress Party, that unites the progressive and democratic forces.
The country is also facing a serious Social and Economic crisis. Massive youth unemployment, farmers distress and economic recession have pushed a large number of our citizens to the margins. These challenges have been aggravated by the “Corona Pandemic” leading to economic shut down with millions of workers across sectors, losing jobs, wages and incomes. The distress of the poor and vulnerable, especially the migrant labour, needs urgent redressal.
The Congress Party is required to deliberate on these challenges and come up with a comprehensive response outlining its vision and policy recommendations.
The situation on the borders in India’s neighbourhood and military standoff with China, is a matter of grave concern. The drift in India’s Foreign Policy, straining of relations with neighbouring countries with whom we have historically shared goodwill and friendly relations, needs a serious reflection and course correction.
As the oldest Political Party of the country that led the freedom movement, laid the foundations of India’s development and building of a modern nation-State, the Congress Party must take an informed position on Foreign Policy, Defence and National Security matters.
We have witnessed a steady decline of the Congress Party reflected in successive electoral verdicts in States and General Elections in 2014 and 2019. Reasons are manifold and need to be immediately identified. Otherwise, the Congress Party will find itself marginalized, both in the States, which is already apparent, as well as at the national level.
The erosion of support base and, in particular, losing the confidence of the youth, is a matter of serious concern. In the last two national elections, India had added 18.7 crores 1s’ time voters – 10.15 crores in 2014 and 8.55 crores in 2019. The youth voted overwhelmingly for Modi and the BJP. The vote share of the BJP sharply increased from 7.84 crores in 2009 to 17.6 crores in 2014 and to 22.9 crores in 2019. In contrast, Congress lost its share of 1.23 crore of the votes polled in 2009. We have marginally crossed the 2009 numbers in the last LokSabha elections.
Even after 14 months of the 2019 electoral verdict, the Congress Party has not undertaken any honest introspection to analyse the reasons for its continued decline.
In order to stem the decline, we have taken upon ourselves to be open and frank so that the Congress Party’s future, which presently is at stake, is not jeopardized any further.
The uncertainty over the leadership and the drift have demoralised the Congress workers and further weakened the Party. There has been an erosion of the support base with leaders and functionaries leaving the Party in a number of States.
The CWC is not effectively guiding the Party to mobilise public opinion against the divisive agenda and anti-people politics of the BJP Government. At present, its meetings are merely episodic and reactive to contemporary developments instead of being a deliberative body for setting the national agenda and for policy initiatives.
The meetings of the CPP over the years have been reduced to the customary address of CPP leader and obituary references. The past practice of discussion on issues has been discontinued. That is required especially now when the Party is in Opposition.
We have also seen, over the past many years, that the appointments of PCC Presidents and office bearers and DCC Presidents are unduly delayed. Leaders who command respect and acceptability in the State are not appointed in time and when appointed as PCC Chiefs are not given the freedom to make organizational decisions.
PCCs and the District Level Committees, are not inclusive and representative of the demographics of the State. The PCCs are not given any functional autonomy. There is also very little accountability when leadership fails.
YOUTH AND STUDENTS
Congress Party has historically nurtured Leadership and encouraged infusion of fresh blood. Younger leaders had risen from the ranks coming from the NSUI and Youth Congress. These leaders had ideological clarity and commitment. A blend of experience of seniors and energy of youth made the Congress strong and vibrant.
In recent years, the institutional process of merit-based and consensus backed selection has been disrupted. Introduction of elections in the cadre feeding organisations NSUI and IYC has created conflict and division. Resource-rich individuals or those backed by powerful patrons captured these organisations. This blocked the progress of younger leaders from an ordinary background with an ideological commitment to the Party of their services, resulting in the weakening of the Frontal Organisations.
Congress Party is no more nurturing leadership at the State and National level, which it had traditionally done. There are no regular deliberations at the AICC as well as the PCC sessions, which deal with policies and programmes addressing societal concerns of a diverse nation.
To revitalise the Party and to give millions of workers a sense of purpose, we suggest the following –
- Full time and effective leadership active in the field and visible, and available at AICC and PCC Headquarters.
- PCC’s and District Committees should be inclusive and representative. The PCC’s be given functional autonomy for institutional accountability.
- Given the geographical spread and diversity of India, over-centralisation of the organisation and micro-management has always proven to be counterproductive. Therefore, the practice of appointing DCC Presidents / Office Bearers of Department and Cells from the AICC should be stopped henceforth. DCC Presidents should be appointed from the State Capital by Incharge General Secretary in coordination with PCC Presidents.
- The Central Parliamentary Board (CPB) be urgently constituted for collective thinking and decision making on organizational matters, policies and programmes.
- A nationwide membership drive should be undertaken and the enrolment drive should be launched on a priority basis.
- Elections of Block, PCC delegates and AICC Members in a transparent manner.
- Election of CWC Members in accordance with the Constitution of the Congress Party.
- Central Election Committee (CEC) be reconstituted comprising of leaders with organisational background and active field knowledge and experience.
- The Screening Committee for empanelling parliament and assembly candidates should consist of leaders with long years of organizational and I or electoral experience.
- An Independent Election Authority comprising of Senior Leaders of Standing and credibility be established to ensure that elections are free, fair and democratic.
- In view of the gravity of challenges facing the Party, it is now, an imperative to urgently establish an “Institutional leadership mechanism” to collectively guide the Party’s revival.
We deeply appreciate the leadership provided by you as Congress President in difficult times and also recognize the commendable efforts of Ex-CP Sh. Rahul Gandhi during his tenure as Congress President.
Congress Party will always remember with pride and gratitude the work and sacrifices of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi.
We acknowledge the resolute struggle, visionary leadership and notable contribution of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. His enduring legacy will always remain a source of guidance and inspiration for us. The Nehru-Gandhi family will always remain an integral part of the collective leadership of the Congress Party.
Congress must be prepared to convert the present challenge into an opportunity to lead the fight back. Time has come to build a narrative that resonates with the youth, women, students, farmers, minorities, dalits and factory workers.
Congress must take the initiative for creating a national coalition of democratic and secular forces to confront and defeat the BJP agenda. For this, a sincere effort should be made to bring on one platform leaders of political parties, who were once part of the Congress.
In view of the unprecedented challenges, the revival of Congress is a national imperative. We, therefore, urge you to take into consideration these proposals for the purpose of implementation, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Indian National Congress in the interest of the Party and the future of Indian democracy.
With kind regards,
The said letter had reportedly created a storm in the CWC meeting. Though the meeting could not decide on the most critical issue of party presidentship and ended up declaring that Sonia Gandhi will continue to remain the ‘interim president’, the internal feud was out in the open.
Many senior leaders, including Ahmed Patel, had criticised the signatories of the letter. Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad also faced a lot of open criticism from fellow party leaders over the letter. Sonia, in her concluding remarks, reportedly said that she is hurt (over the letter) but she bears no ill will against the party leaders who wrote it.