No objection to Rahul as Prez, but Cong to have ‘chintan shivirs’

New Delhi: Interim chief Sonia Gandhi’s meeting with senior Congress leaders on Saturday morning ended after almost five hours and sources said nobody in the meeting objected to Rahul Gandhi’s name from being proposed for the party chief’s position again, although there will be “Chintan shivir” or brain storming camps soon.

“No one has a problem with Rahul Gandhi, and this is not just for today. Everybody said that we need Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. We must not fall into the trap of other people who are trying to distract the party’s agenda,” senior party leader Pawan Bansal said emerging out of the most awaited meeting ever since the group of 23 had shot a letter to Sonia Gandhi in August this year.

The meeting which lasted for hours after starting off a little after 10.30 a.m. and went off on a cordial note despite the participation from the disgruntled group, saw Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka speak at the meeting.

Several other senior leaders also brought in suggestion with fresh measures for strengthening the party.

Prithiviraj Chavan, one of the signatories of the G23 letter, said after the meeting: “Nineteen leaders of Congress met and discussed means to strengthen the party. A clear future course is on the anvil.

“It is the first of such meetings. More meetings will take place. ‘Chintan shivirs’ in line with Shimla and Pachmarhi will be organised.”

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He said suggestions of the party leaders will be recorded.

The meeting at the residence of the Congress interim chief included several of the “dissident” leaders who had written to her urging for “an active president” in the party.

Bansal termed the meeting “very constructive” with everyone pitching in with suggestions “that were all taken note of”. He said the meeting “energised the party to fight the forces” that are “fighting the idea of India and Congress”. He said the Congress is determined to fight all such forces.

The sources said it was a “freewheeling discussion and whatever anyone had to say they said”.

The leaders said there will be a due process for internal elections that is already in motion.

Senior Congress leaders like Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, former Madhya Pradesh chief Minister Kamal Nath, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Vivek Tankha, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Prithviraj Chavan, Ambika Soni, Manish Tewari, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Pawan Bansal, Harish Rawat, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor, A.K. Antony and several others met the Gandhis for the first time since dissidence within the party became public.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ajay Maken were also present at 10 Janpath here.

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On Friday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that Sonia Gandhi had been unable to physically meet the party leaders on account of COVID-19 protocol for a considerable amount of time.

“Now she has decided that from tomorrow she is going to meet and decide various organisational issues. So this is not a meet of any specific group of leaders. This is not a meet of dissenters or rebels because we consider each leader and worker as part of our family,” Surjewala had said.

He said that the party has addressed the issues raised by some of the senior members of the party and it has already been decided to hold the election to the post of president.

“That process is underway, all the issues should be resolved with the announcement of the next election. There are no internal issues of dissent that are pending in the party of any nature,” he said.

Surjewala said the BJP sometimes continues to propagate such insinuations which Congress leaders do not believe in, including those who have written the letter.

“We are one family and we will work together and we will work to strengthen the party,” he added.

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