It is the first since a group of 23 pitched for an “active, visible and full-time” leadership
The highly anticipated meeting of senior Congress leaders, including members of the group of 23 (G-23) dissenters, got under way at party president Sonia Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence on Saturday morning.
This is the first time Ms. Gandhi is meeting senior leaders in person ever since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions kicked in.
It is also the first time the Congress chief is meeting a section of the G-23 leaders who had pitched for an “active, visible and full-time” leadership.
In August, they had written a letter to Ms. Gandhi arguing for “collective leadership,” organisational revamp, internal elections and decentralised decision-making process.
Among the G-23 leaders attending Saturday’s meeting are Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Prithvi Raj Chavan, Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor.
Other senior leaders include former Union Ministers P. Chidamabaram, Kamal Nath, Ambika Soni and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Party general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Ajay Maken are also in attendance. Though former party chief Rahul Gandhi is also said to be attending, there was no confirmation.
A key leader of the rebel group, Kapil Sibal, however, skipped the meeting as he had to travel abroad on Saturday morning.
On Friday, the party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tried playing down the meeting by describing it as the first among a series of meetings planned by Ms. Gandhi over the next few days.
Playing down “internal dissensions,” Mr. Surjewala claimed “all issues stood resolved” and the meeting would discuss crucial political issues such alliances in election-bound States (Assam, Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala), ongoing farmers’ agitation and the government’s decision to skip the winter session of Parliament.
“This is not a meet of any special group of leaders. This is not a meet of any dissenters or rebels. Because we consider each leader and each worker as part of the family. All the issues stood resolved with the announcement of the next election of the Congress president. So, there are no internal issues of dissensions that are pending in the party of any nature,” Mr. Surjewala said on Friday at a press conference, adding that Mr. Gandhi was the “best person” to lead the Congress.
His “all issues resolved” comment, however, did not go down well with the G-23 leaders, prompting some of them to hold a late-night meeting.
“If all issues have been resolved, then what is the need for a meeting?” asked a rebel leader while speaking to this reporter.
But a source close to Mr. Surjewala insisted that the chief spokesperson of the party merely reiterated the party line.