Congress: Sonia Gandhi Asks 5 State Unit Chiefs to Resign; Sibal's Remarks See Backlash

Punjab's Navjot Singh Sidhu, UP's Ajay Kumar Lallu and Uttarakhand's Ganesh Godiyal have since quit their posts. Goa PCC chief Chodankar had resigned earlier.

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New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has asked presidents of five state units of the party to resign. The direction comes days after the party fared poorly in elections to the assemblies of these five states.

The direction affects Ajay Kumar Lallu in Uttar Pradesh, Ganesh Godiyal in Uttarakhand, Navjot Singh Sidhu in Punjab, Girish Chodankar in Goa and Nameirakpam Loken Singh in Manipur. All of them were appointed Pradesh Congress Committee presidents in the run up to the assembly elections.

Sidhu, Lallu and Godiyal have since quit their posts, the latter two taking moral responsibility of the poll defeats and all three announcing their decisions on Twitter. Goa PCC chief Chodankar had earlier resigned as well.

Sidhu announced his decision with a terse, “As desired by the Congress President I have sent my resignation…” message.

On Sunday, March 13, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) met to discuss the way forward after the party’s remarkable debacle in the assembly polls.

“Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi has asked the PCC Presidents of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur to put in their resignations in order to facilitate reorganisation of PCCs,” chief spokesperson for the party Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.

While the direction to the state unit chiefs points to CWC’s intention of reconstituting state wings, Indian Express has quoted an unnamed senior leader as expressing misgivings that such an exercise is ‘cosmetic’. It also does not affect in-charges and general secretaries, who the unnamed leader indicated, were similarly responsible. Among such position holders are Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, Harish Chaudhary, in-charge of Punjab, and Devender Yadav who is in charge of Uttarakhand.

Congress’s G-23 leaders – a section of critics comprising senior leadership – meanwhile, have decided to meet at senior leader Kapil Sibal’s residence on Wednesday, March 16, to discuss the situation in the aftermath of the losses and the CWC’s endorsement of Sonia Gandhi continuing as president.

The group, which has been critical of the leadership, had written to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 demanding an organisational overhaul.

Reports quoting sources close to the G-23 leaders have said that Congress leaders outside of the group are also invited to this meeting.

Backlash against Sibal

Meanwhile, another section of senior Congress leaders have not taken kindly to Sibal’s remarks against the party’s leadership.

“Leadership is in cuckoo land…I want a ‘sab ki Congress’. Some want a ‘ghar ki Congress’,” Sibal told Indian Express in an interview after the CWC turned down the Gandhis’ offer of resigning and voted to keep Sonia Gandhi has president on March 13. Sibal is not a member of the CWC.

Manickam Tagore said BJP and RSS want the Gandhis to be out of leadership positions in the Congress to kill the party and destroy the idea of India.

“Why RSS and BJP wants Nehru-Gandhi’s out of the leadership? Because without Gandhi’s leadership Congress will be become Janata party. It’s easy to kill Congress then it’s easy to destroy the idea of India (sic),” Tagore said on Twitter.

“Kapil Sibal knows it but why he is speaking the language of RSS/BJP?” the Congress’s whip in the Lok Sabha asked.

National spokesperson of the Congress Pawan Khera said Sibal should contest the election for the post of Congress president, instead of making public comments against the party leadership.

“Dr Harshvardhan did not ask you to step aside from Chandni Chowk. He fought an election and defeated you Kapil Sibal. Those who want to lead Congress are free to fight upcoming election for the position of party president instead of chanting everyday against current leadership,” he said.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot called Sibal’s comment “unfortunate”.

“At a time when the party is losing elections, the leaders should stand united…Those who are talking about finishing the Congress party will themselves get finished. The Congress is a years-old party and our leaders have made supreme sacrifices before and after the independence,” he told reporters in Jaipur.

Another chief minister who responded to Sibal is Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel, who said, “Congress is a party of every household. It is in every home. But some people want to turn it into a Congress of dinners and bungalows. Could have come to Uttar Pradesh once to see what leadership and fights are all about. Those who would talk about finishing off the Congress have faded away.”

Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Salman Khurshid also criticised Sibal’s comment, saying it does not help the party as all such matters should be discussed within the organisation and not in the public domain.

(With PTI inputs)