CWC meeting | Sonia says Congress needs to put its house in order

‘If we do not face up to the reality, if we do not look the facts in the face, we will not draw the right lessons,’ interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi says at the virtual CWC meeting

Updated - May 10, 2021 10:24 pm IST

Published - May 10, 2021 12:40 pm IST - New Delhi

Sonia Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi.

The recent Assembly elections are clear indication that the Congress needs to put its house in order, party president Sonia Gandhi told a virtual meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Monday as she announced setting up of a fact finding group to analyze the results.

The meeting, convened to discuss the party’s performance in recent Assembly polls as well as the election of a new party president, unanimously adopted a resolution to defer internal polls until the COVID situation came under control.

Also read: Debate on Congress’ debacle in Assembly elections can wait, says Kapil Sibal

Even though some members asked the former party chief Rahul Gandhi to take over again, he was not present in the meeting, stating that he is recovering from the COVID infection that he contracted last month.

“We need to candidly understand why in Kerala and Assam we failed to dislodge the incumbent governments, and why in West Bengal we drew a complete blank. These will yield uncomfortable lessons, but if we do not face up to the reality, if we do not look the facts in the face, we will not draw the right lessons...These results tell us clearly that we need to put our house in order,” Ms. Gandhi said in her opening remarks.

Also read: T.N. Assembly Elections | Congress winning less than 20 seats is a defeat, says party’s tech cell head

Her comments set the stage for an intense debate as senior leaders questioned the party’s decision to choose allies, especially in Assam and Bengal. Congress general secretaries and State in-charges — Jitender Singh for Assam, Tariq Anwar for Kerala, Jitin Prasada for West Bengal and Dinesh Gundu Rao for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry — gave presentations on their respective States.

Sources said Digvijaya Singh, who had earlier handled Assam a general secretary, pointed out that he had always opposed any alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) for its potential to polarise voters.

Also read:  Should the Gandhis disengage from the Congress?

The general secretary for Assam, however, argued that regional parties like Raijor Dal and Axom Jatiya Parishad split anti-BJP votes in the State and the party would have formed the government if it had secured 68,000 votes more.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, a prominent member of Congress’ group of 23 dissenters, not only endorsed Mr Singh but questioned the party’s alliance in Bengal, especially the Indian Secular Front founded by the cleric of Furfura Sharif Abbas Siddiqui.

Since the move was seen as trying to divide Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s support base among minorities, Mr Azad asked if it would not have helped the BJP. He suggested that key decisions like choosing an ally should not be left to the State leader and suggested that a central committee should deliberate on such issues.

He also pointed out that the party had suffered one of its worst defeats in Kerala that usually elected a new government every five years.

Also read: India sinking under Modi govt.’s incompetence and indifference, says Sonia

Backing Mr Azad, another G-23 member, Anand Sharma, said the CWC should give a call to all progressive, democratic, non-BJP parties to come together. He is also learnt to have pointed out that calling for introspection was not going against the party. Quoting Mr. Gandhi to argue that only the Congress allows divergence of views within, he is learnt to have said the ‘virus of intolerance’ shouldn’t afflict the party.

While Mr Anwar put the loss in Kerala to infighting and the Left Front government's handling of pandemic, Mr Prasada said the party workers in West Bengal were divided over the support to the Left parties but the State leadership insisted on it.

Ms Gandhi, said sources, then asked him to put it down in writing that the central leadership had not insisted on any particular alliance in Bengal.

On the question of a electing a new party chief, though the CWC had discussed a tentative schedule of internal polls, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot objected to it during a pandemic and was backed by Mr Azad.

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