CWC meet soon, says Congress amid crisis

Amid spiralling Punjab crisis, disidents had demanded meeting.

September 30, 2021 10:10 am | Updated 10:19 pm IST - New Delhi

Delhi Congress workers stage a protest against senior party leader Kapil Sibal by throwing tomatoes outside his residence, hours after Mr. Sibal reiterated demands sweeping reforms raised by G-23 leaders, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.

Delhi Congress workers stage a protest against senior party leader Kapil Sibal by throwing tomatoes outside his residence, hours after Mr. Sibal reiterated demands sweeping reforms raised by G-23 leaders, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.

A day after the Congress’ group of 23 (G-23) dissenting senior leaders had demanded a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party on Thursday announced that a meeting of the party’s highest body would take place soon.

“Before leaving for Shimla, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had already indicated that a CWC meeting shall be called very soon and it will happen in the coming days,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told The Hindu without specifying a date.

Also Read:Punjab turmoil snowballs into major crisis for Congress

Following the unravelling crisis in Punjab on Wednesday, at an explosive press conference, senior leader Kapil Sibal had asked, “Who is taking decisions in our party as we don't have a president?”

His colleague and former Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi had written a fresh letter to Ms. Gandhi, demanding a CWC to debate the turmoil within and desertions from the Congress.

On Thursday, the divide between G-23 and loyalists of the Gandhi family played out in the social media as a number of G-23 leaders targeted the party leadership for the hooliganism outside Mr. Sibal’s residence after his press conference.

While Lok Sabha member Manish Tewari called the protests by Youth Congress members a “command performance”, CWC member Anand Sharma expressed his “disgust” and asserted that “intolerance and violence” had no place in the Congress.

Taking a nuanced but a very significant position on the episode, former Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram said he feels “helpless” when meaningful conversations cannot start within party forums and hurt when he sees pictures of Congress workers “raising slogans outside the residence of a colleague and MP”.

“The safe harbour to which one can withdraw seems to be silence,” added Mr. Chidamabaram, who is not a part of G-23.

Mr. Azad tweeted: “I strongly condemn the orchestrated hooliganism @KapilSibal’s residence last night. He is a loyal Congressman fighting for the party both inside and outside the Parliament. Any suggestion from any quarter should be welcomed instead of suppressing, hooliganism is unacceptable.”

Other leaders, part of the group calling for leadership reform, who tweeted to condemn the “vanadalism outside” Mr. Sibal’s house included Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda and Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha.

Members of the Youth Congress from the Chandni Chowk area — a Lok Sabha constituency that Mr. Sibal has represented — protested outside his house on Wednesday evening. Apart from holding placards with “Get Well Soon” messages, Youth Congress workers reportedly threw tomatoes and roses inside Mr. Sibal’s compound.

The trigger was a press conference by Mr. Sibal in which he not only questioned the decision-making by the party's top leadership but also said, “In our party, at the moment, there is no president, and so, we don't who is taking the decisions.”

“Shocked and disgusted to hear the news of attack and hooliganism at Kapil Sibal’s house. This deplorable action brings disrepute to the party and needs to be strongly condemned. Congress has a history of upholding freedom of expression. Differences of opinion and perception are integral to a democracy. Intolerance and violence is alien to Congress values and culture. Those responsible must be identified and disciplined. Urging Congress president Smt Sonia Gandhi to take cognisance and strong action,” Mr. Sharma said.

Reminding that Mr. Sibal has defended Congress governments and the leaderships in various courts of laws, Mr. Tewari tweeted,“Those who are trying to defend the ‘command performance’ last night. This is what happened @KapilSibal ‘s house...They damaged the car. Stood on top, so it caved in. Threw tomatoes both outside and inside the house. If this is not hooliganism then what else is it???”

While Mr. Sibal, on behalf of the G-23, in his press conference reiterated the group’s demand for an elected CWC, party president, central election committee and empowered Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC), his colleague, Mr. Azad, shot off a fresh letter to Ms. Gandhi to convene a meeting of the CWC to debate the state of affairs including “mass exodus” of leaders from the party.

Though there was complete silence from the Gandhis, others like former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, general secretary Ajay Maken were among leaders who strongly strongly defended them.

“Sonia Gandhi ji and Rahul Gandhi ji have handled the party under difficult circumstances. We have full faith in them. Those who are raising questions now have been given a lot by the party,” Mr. Baghel tweeted.

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