I A virtual meeting of Rajya Sabha members of the Congress on Thursday, chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi, witnessed a sharp exchange of views between former Ministers in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and members who are believed to be close to former party chief Rahul Gandhi, highly placed sources said.
There has been no formal communication from the party on the closed-door brainstorming session.
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According to sources who did not wish to be named, when former Law Minister Kapil Sibal questioned the party’s style of functioning, pointed to a lack of coordination and called for “introspection”, newly elected Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Satav countered it by stating that it was the UPA-II government that had “spoilt” the party’s prospects in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and brought its tally to 44.
Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s observation about the Congress’s inability to generate much public support against the Modi government’s failures because of a “weak organisation” was also countered by the party’s general secretary-organisation, K.C. Venugopal, another close aide of Mr. Gandhi.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was a part of the virtual meeting when Mr. Satav, who previously headed the Youth Congress and is believed to be a part of ‘Team Rahul’, blamed the UPA-II for the Congress’ current problems.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Satav with family members at Parliament House after taking oath on July 22, 2020. At a virtual meeting of the party’s Rajaya Sabha MPs on July 30, 2020, Mr. Satav countered senior party leader Kapil Sibal when the latter questioned the party’s style of functioning.
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Apart from Dr. Singh, several Ministers of the UPA Cabinet, including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh, participated in the virtual meeting.
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Dr. Singh is believed to have been upset at the reference, a senior leader close to him told The Hindu.
Members bat for Rahul
Given the current state of instability in the party, several members, including Abhishek Singhvi, Digvijaya Singh, Mr. Venugopal and Mr. Satav, strongly endorsed Assam MP Ripun Bora’s suggestion that Mr. Gandhi take over the reins of the party again.
The meeting, which went on for nearly four hours, was convened to discuss the current political situation, including the impact of COVID-19, the economic slump, and the stand-off with China.
Talking about the challenges of the past few months because of the pandemic, Ms. Gandhi informed her colleagues about her letters to the Prime Minister to help migrant workers through welfare measures, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and (MGNREGA) the Food Security Act, among others.
The Congress chief accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of “toppling elected governments” instead of handling challenges, including China, which she described as a “grave challenge”.
Senior leader Anand Sharma alleged that the government was deliberately avoiding a Parliamentary session in order to avoid accountability on the current challenges.
Mr. Chidambaram is learnt to have pointed out that the Modi government has been able to “manage public perception despite failing to effectively deal with China, corona[virus] or the economy because of the weak organisational structure of the Congress”.
Mr. Venugopal then went on to give details of a number of digital campaigns on social media, and meetings with Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs and Lok Sabha MPs, to assert that “the party organisation was not weak and was doing its best”.
Bihar leader Akhilesh Pratap Singh then hit back by saying that this, “may be the case in Kerala but certainly not in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh”.
Ahead of the August 5 Bhoomi Puja for the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, Haryana MP Deepender Hooda reminded his colleagues that the Congress Working Committee (CWC) had welcomed the Supreme Court judgment and, therefore, there should not be any contradictory voice from the party as the sentiments of the people were involved.
Senior Leader Ahmed Patel spoke about the need to carefully go through the National Education Policy.
Punjab MP, Shamsher Singh Dullo, spoke against the culture of “para-dropping” leaders at the All India Congress Committee “at the cost of the party workers instead of them working their way up through the frontal organisations”.
Another Punjab MP, Partap Singh Bajwa, raised the issue of three agriculture-related ordinances and described as them anti-farmer. He is believed to have said there was a “truckload of issues against the BJP but it cannot be done in the digital mode and the Congress needs to hit the ground whenever the COVID-19 situation permits”.