After being incommunicado for a day, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday held a series of meetings with party leaders including his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot amid his insistence on quitting and also rumblings of discontent in the northern state.
While Pilot met him earlier and Gehlot followed later, Priyanka was present during their meetings, sources said. Party general secretary K C Venugopal and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also held discussions at the residence of the Congress chief, who is adamant on having a non-Gandhi installed as the party head.
Gandhi had cancelled all meetings on Monday and had become incommunicado, even though he visited a local hotel in the evening, the sources said. With senior party leaders trying to convince Rahul not to resign, Congress leader and former Rajya Sabha member Pramod Tiwari after meeting the former said, "Instead of resigning, he should seek resignations of leaders at all levels and restructure the party.
He also indicated that the CWC resolution, which had turned down his offer of resignation and urged him to revamp and restructure the party at all levels, is all pervasive. Leaders point out that the CWC being the highest decision-making body of the party has already put down in writing in its resolution in its meeting on May 25.
Faced with a colossal electoral defeat, the Congress has been riven by internal turmoil. As the party grapples with a severe existential crisis, its governments in both Karnataka and Rajasthan teeter on the brink with reports suggesting the BJP may try to wrest power in both states. Rahul has asked senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Venugopal to rush to Bengaluru to set things right in the state which is faced with dissensions.
The Congress drew a blank in Rajasthan as the NDA won all 25 Lok Sabha seats. In Karnataka, where it formed a government with the JD(S) in May last year, the Congress managed to win only one Lok Sabha seat out of 28. On Monday, Rahul cancelled all his appointments for the day and Gehlot could not meet him.
After Rahul gave Gehlot a tongue lashing for putting his son above the party at a CWC meeting on Saturday, two days after the Lok Sabha votes were counted, several Rajasthan ministers and MLAs are demanding that accountability be fixed and action taken for the Lok Sabha poll debacle. According to some leaders who attended the Congress Working Committee meeting, Rahul did a lot of "plain-speaking" in his surgical analysis of the role of several party leaders while himself offering to quit as the party president.
Ticking-off Gehlot for camping in Jodhpur for his son Vaibhav's election, Rahul said the chief minister spent days campaigning there and neglected the rest of the state. The CWC meeting was held in the backdrop of the Congress winning just 52 Lok Sabha seats and drawing a nought in 18 states and Union Territories. Gandhi himself lost from the family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, though he won from Wayanad in Kerala.