Dinner hosted by Tharoor birthed letter which sparked Congress' crisis
The idea of the unprecedented letter sent to Congress President Sonia Gandhi earlier this month was seeded nearly five months ago at a dinner hosted by Shashi Tharoor, who represents Thiruvananthapuram in the Lok Sabha, a report in HT said. While most of Tharoor's guests didn't sign the letter, others responded to the clarion call that sought "active and visible leadership." Here's what went down.
Chidambarams, Pilot, Singhvi attended the dinner but didn't sign letter
Reportedly, among those who attended the dinner, but didn't sign the final letter, were former Finance/Home Minister P Chidambaram, his son Karti, senior Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Mani Shankar Iyer, and Sachin Pilot, who led a revolt against the Congress government in Rajasthan recently. To recall, Pilot's homecoming to the party happened after ex-President Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi intervened.
Singhvi agreed important discussions happened; Iyer was sidelined after dinner
When asked about the letter, Singhvi told HT he wasn't informed about it during the dinner. "There was an informal discussion on the constructive issue of reforms within the party," he said, also revealing that he attended the dinner at a day's notice. While Chidambaram and Pilot didn't comment on the matter, Iyer said he didn't sign the letter because he was not asked to.
Was not approached after dinner: Iyer
In a plain-speak manner, Iyer said, "There was a general discussion to revive the party and need to go back to our secular credentials. There was a suggestion, which nobody opposed, of the need to send a letter. Nobody, however, approached me after that dinner."
Wrote names because reform is needed: Congress leader
Separately, another Congress leader who attended the meeting and was also one of the signatories told HT that the Gandhis and top-brass must not shoot the messenger. "We have put our names to the letter because we believe that we need to reform," the person said. Notably, the prominent faces who signed the letter were Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Milind Deora, etc.
Naturally, Gandhis didn't receive letter well, revolt was pounded soon
The letter sent to Sonia, who accepted the top post last year after son Rahul resigned, created a flutter over the weekend, prompting the 73-year-old to say that she would quit. She even directed her aides to look for her replacement. However, the revolt lasted briefly and was crushed at the marathon meeting of Congress Working Committee, the top decision-making body, on Monday.
At marathon meeting, the dissenters were questioned, berated, slammed
Monday's meeting lasted over seven hours wherein the 23 signatories were slammed, criticized, and questioned about their intent. When Sonia expressed unwillingness to continue at the helm, her aide AK Antony and former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh suggested her otherwise. According to Indian Express, the meeting, called for deliberations, quickly became about attacking the dissenters, with Rahul leading the charge against them.
Rahul was clearly unhappy with letter but supported "change"
Rahul is learned to have questioned the timing of the letter, reminding that the party was until recently involved in handling a coup in Rajasthan. He also added that his mother isn't keeping well. However, the Gandhi siblings agreed that Sonia's presidency was supposed to be transient. Finally, CWC decided to initiate the process for selecting a new chief within six months.