Signs of a thaw have emerged as the Congress looks to elect a new chief. (File)

New Delhi:
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi this morning flagged off a series of meetings – to be held over the next 10 days – with senior party leaders to elect the next president. After months of infighting, a core group of rebel leaders – who wrote a letter in August flagging a leadership drift and calling for sweeping organizational changes – began discussions with the Congress president at her house; they’re expected to share their concerns with her for the first time, say sources. On Friday, top spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “99.9 per cent” leaders in Congress want Rahul Gandhi to lead the party again.

Here is your ten-point cheat sheet on this big story:

  1. Rahul Gandhi is attending Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s meet with the “rebels” dubbed as the “G-23”. Senior Congress leaders- loyalists as well as rebels – reached 10 Janpath this morning to meet the Gandhis. The meeting is being held outdoors.

  2. AK Antony, Ashok Gehlot and Ambika Soni are among the loyalists attending the meeting. Gulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Vivek Tankha, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tiwari and Bhupinder Singh Hooda are among the dissenters at the meet. Congress veteran P Chidambaram is also present.

  3. After months of infighting, this is the first time Gandhis are meeting the rebels. “We are one family and we will sort it out,” said Randeep Surjewala on Friday. “An electoral college of Congress, AICC (All India Congress Committee) members, Congress workers and members will choose who’s best suited (to be the party chief),” he added.

  4. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who is also at the meet, reportedly played a big part in getting Sonia Gandhi to agree to hear rebels out. Mr Nath had lost power in Madhya Pradesh in March following senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s defection to the BJP. He had so far kept a distance from the dissenters. Sources say he has now backed their cause. 

  5. In August, 23 senior Congress leaders – in a stunning act of defiance- had expressed concern over the party’s downslide since it lost power in 2014 and had called for an “active and visible leadership”.

  6. Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad was among some of the “dissidents” snubbed earlier when they sought an appointment with Sonia Gandhi. Instead, Mr Azad and another letter writer, Mukul Wasnik, faced a virtual ambush in an online Congress meet, in the presence of the Gandhis. 

  7. After Rahul Gandhi stepped down as the party chief last year over the 2019 national election debacle, Congress lost two states – Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

  8. Trouble erupted in Rajasthan earlier this year after an upset Sachin Pilot headed to camp to Delhi; he met with the Gandhi to return to iron out differences with Ashok Gehlot. 

  9. Abysmal performance in Bihar election last month led to a fresh flare up within the party. Kapil Sibal, one of the letter writers, went public with a sharp jab at the leadership, saying “the time for introspection is over”. 

  10. After him, other party leaders like P Chidambaram also called for a “comprehensive review” and suggested that the party needed to strengthen its core.

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