Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are likely to be present in Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s meeting tomorrow with a group of 23 “rebels” dubbed the “G-23”, sources say.
The Gandhis’ meeting with the leaders, who wrote a letter flagging a leadership drift in the Congress and calling for sweeping organizational changes, is said to be a step towards reconciliation after months of infighting and in-house attacks.
But the Congress claims other leaders, who were not signatories to the letter, will also be present. Sonia Gandhi is meeting various groups ahead of organizational elections, say party leaders.
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath reportedly played a big part in getting Sonia Gandhi to agree to the meeting. Kamal Nath, who lost power in Madhya Pradesh in March following senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection to the BJP, had so far kept a distance from the dissenters. Sources say he has now backed their cause.
In a letter in August, the 23 leaders had expressed concern over the party’s downslide since it lost power in 2014 and had called for an “active and visible leadership” and collective decision-making. It was seen as a stunning act of defiance by a group that included the party’s senior most defenders and spokespersons.
Attempts at sealing the rift come as the Congress looks to elect a new party president and new members to its top decision-making bodies in the New Year. Sonia Gandhi, 74, has been interim chief since son Rahul quit last year over the Congress’s second straight national election defeat. He has since refused to reconsider that decision, making it clear that a non-Gandhi should head the party.
Over the last year, the party has lost two key states, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, and has barely held on to Rajasthan after preventing Sachin Pilot from taking Jyotiraditya Scindia’s route.
Recently, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot hinted that the threat of the BJP trying to topple his government with help from Congress rebels was not gone. Mr Gehlot may also be present in the Saturday meeting.
Last month, after the Congress’s abysmal performance in the Bihar election, questions were raised again by the party’s leaders. Kapil Sibal, one of the letter writers, openly criticised the leadership, saying “the time for introspection is over”. After him, other party leaders like P Chidambaram also called for a “comprehensive review”.
Recent reverses in local polls in Rajasthan and Kerala have been held up as more examples of the Congress’s existential crisis.