If many felt that Rahul Gandhi – or his family – was the problem with Congress, his decision to step down as party president and ruling out choosing any from his family as successor has not helped matters so far either.
Rahul is adamant on his decision to take responsibility for party’s poll debacle and quit and his comment that other party leaders have not stepped forward to own responsibility led to several young office-bearers of the party and its frontal organisations resigning in solidarity with Rahul, to mount pressure on the elders.
The young leaders want Rahul to continue as the Congress president. This is touted as younger vs old tussle in the party, but that is only as far as age is concerned. The culture remains the same: stick with The Family.
At least one AICC general secretary, Madhya Pradesh in-charge Deepak Babaria, and one state Congress president, Goa’s Girish Chodankar, resigned hours after some 300 young leaders — most of them in their 40s — converged at the Congress headquarters today (Saturday, June 29) in the first such show of solidarity with Rahul, said media reports.
Yesterday, several Congress office-bearers resigned after MP Vivek Tankha quit on Thursday as the chairman of the party’s legal and human rights cell and urged others to follow suit to give a free hand to Rahul Gandhi to restructure the party at all levels.
The mass resignations followed a six-hour-long meeting of former Youth Congress office bearers who have since been elevated to various positions in the party. As many as 373 Congress functionaries participated in the meeting, reported The Hindu. Their main demand is that the present Congress Working Committee (CWC) must be disbanded and that the Pradesh Congress Committee Presidents of the 17 States where the party failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat should step down.
This group of younger functionaries are also hoping that the mass resignations would convince Rahul Gandhi to return. After almost a month of refusing to meet any senior leaders, Gandhi met leaders from four poll-bound States on Thursday and Friday.
The move is seen as a challenge to the old guard and a pressure tactic to push for the implementation of Rahul’s plan of fixing accountability. The list of resignees includes four All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretaries — Virender Vashisht, Secretary Overseas; Anil Chaudhary, Odisha in-charge; Virender Rathore, Bihar in-charge; and Rajesh Dharmani, Uttarakhand in-charge. Goa State unit President Girish Chodankar, Delhi Working President Rajesh Lilothia and Telangana Working President Ponnam Prabhakar were also among those who resigned.
The number of resignees is expected to swell in the coming days.
A bigger meeting has been planned for July 2, when Congress office bearers from across the country are expected to reach Delhi.
“The people who are responsible for the Lok Sabha debacle should take the onus instead of blaming Rahul Gandhi alone,” AICC secretary and Bihar in-charge Virender Rathore told The Hindu. “Mr Gandhi has fought single-handedly against Narendra Modi and the BJP machinery,” he added.
The rallying cry of Friday’s meeting was that Gandhi was let down by the “old guard” and that he needed to return. “It’s not just the Congress, the country needs him,” asserted Virender Vashisht, AICC Secretary Overseas. “Our Constitution is in danger and within days of the return of the BJP government, people are being killed in the name of religion; in such a situation we can’t let the party remain in a precarious situation,” he added.
Other resignations too followed in the wake of the meeting of the younger leaders. AICC General Secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Deepak Babaria, who was handpicked by Gandhi for the post, quit. “Why should Mr. Gandhi alone be blamed for the party’s performance, we all should take the responsibility,” Babaria said.
Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha tweeted that the stalemate can’t be allowed to continue for long. “We all should submit our resignations from party positions and give Rahul ji a free hand to choose his team. Party cannot afford a stalemate for too long,” Tankha tweeted, offering his resignation as Chairman of the Law Department of the AICC.
In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath said he had offered to resign from the post of state Congress president after the party’s defeat. “Rahul Gandhi is right… I personally believe that I am responsible… I do not know who else is responsible,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rahul on Friday appointed Chhattisgarh MLA Mohan Markam as the head of the party’s Chhattisgarh unit, replacing CM Bhupesh Baghel.
The Congress this week dissolved all district committees of its Uttar Pradesh unit and formed a three-member disciplinary committee to look into acts of gross indiscipline and anti-party activities during the Lok Sabha elections.