ASHOK GEHLOT SHOWCASES LOYALTY TO GANDHIS AT CWC MEETING
By Rahil Nora Chopra : Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot’s lashed out at the 23 signatories to the July open letter to Sonia Gandhi at the CWC meeting on 22 January. For some time, internal strife has been brewing in the party over loyalty to the Gandhis and many believe Gehlot’s open show of aggression at the CWC, was to showcase his. The virtual meeting was highlighted by a volley of verbal exchange between two camps, one headed by Ashok Gehlot and Ambika Soni and the other with Anand Sharma leading the pack. Sharma is one of the 23 senior leaders who had written an unprecedented letter to Sonia Gandhi in July demanding sweeping changes in the party, including elections in the Congress Working Committee. As per Congress sources, it was Rahul Gandhi who intervened to calm things down, insisting that harsh words shouldn’t be used by either side, and emphasizing the need to keep the current focus on the farmers’ agitation. Gandhi said that the leadership issue would be settled once the internal elections take place. Congress sources also indicated that Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the 23 signatories to the letter, demanded that elections be held both for the CWC and the Central Election Committee, a key body which finalises the party’s candidates for various elections as provided by the party constitution. Senior leaders P Chidambaram and Mukul Wasnik backed Azad in his demand for greater internal democracy, but irritated Gehlot and Soni. Gehlot in turn said the party must focus its energies on fighting the BJP instead of squandering on internal power struggles. Gehlot said that he had been in the party since 1973-1974 but did not remember a time when there was a poll in CWC, and that for years people in the Congress had held party post through nomination. Elections to CWC were held in Tirupati and Kolkata in 1993 and 1997 under the presidentship of PV Narsimha Rao and Sitaram Kesari. Anand Sharma complained that he was being targeted by Rajasthan CM but Ambika Soni reminded him no names had been taken. Besides Gehlot still faces a threat from Sachin Pilot in his home state. So it was perhaps also a message to the Gandhis that his loyalty towards them is unflinching.