Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday he was formally quitting as Congress president, but suggested the rest of the senior leadership of the party should also listen to the call of their conscience and follow his example.
Rahul said he accepted his accountability for the party’s loss in the Lok Sabha polls, but indicated he was not the only one to blame for the defeat. “At times, I stood completely alone and am extremely proud of it,” he said.
His supporters in the party believe Rahul’s five-page statement has helped him take the moral high ground among party workers against rest of the senior leadership. However, some of the seniors said the letter was an attempt by Rahul to not just escape the blame for the loss, but also shift it onto them, when he had taken nearly all of the decisions.
Rahul’s letter comes in the wake of recriminations within the party, particularly between him and some of the party’s senior most leaders, including party treasurer Ahmed Patel, former union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Kamal Nath and others.
In meetings over the last month, Rahul has snapped at Patel, accused Shinde of keeping the party in the dark about the challenge that Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi posed in Maharashtra and blamed Gehlot, Nath and P Chidambaram of working less for the party and more to ensure the electoral wins of their sons.
Rahul had initially announced his resignation at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on May 25, two days after the Lok Sabha poll results. He had hoped other leaders, especially the rest of the CWC members and state unit chiefs, would follow suit but that did not happen. Subsequent resignations by over 200 Congress functionaries, mostly little-known leaders, to express solidarity with Rahul embarrassed him further. Most interpreted it to be a charade by his close associates to convince him to stay on.
Rahul’s meeting with five Congress chief ministers on Monday convinced him that he should end the limbo the party finds itself in, and pave the way for the election of a new party chief. Several names are doing the rounds, including that of Mallikarjun Kharge, Shinde and Gehlot. The Rajasthan CM met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi later in the day.
Some, however, fear that Rahul's exit could lead to splits in the party.
A meeting of the 24-member CWC is likely next week. It is uncertain if Rahul will attend since he has to leave for the United States. Congress sources rejected the speculation that party’s senior most general secretary, 92-year-old Motilal Vora, will now run the party’s affairs. Sources said Rahul continued to be the party chief until the CWC meets and accepts his resignation. While Vora would chair the meeting, general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal will officiate.
It is, however, certain that someone outside the dynasty will be asked to warm the chair for the first time in 21 years. Some are hopeful that Rahul will eventually return, or party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra would stake claim possibly after the 2022 UP Assembly polls.
In his letter, Rahul said, “accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president”. He said, “Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019.”
It is an honour for me to serve the Congress Party, whose values and ideals have served as the lifeblood of our beautiful nation. I owe the country and my organisation a debt of tremendous gratitude and love. Jai Hind