The Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) will meet at Parliament Annexe on Saturday morning, party functionaries said on Wednesday, adding that the meeting will be presided over by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and attended by all Congress MPs, including party president Rahul Gandhi.
The suspense over whether Gandhi will continue to lead his party lingered on Wednesday even as Congress workers in several cities across the country held demonstrations urging him to rethink his decision to quit following reverses in the Lok Sabha elections.
Saturday could mark the first occasion when Gandhi will interact with party leaders since the fractious Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on May 25 when he announced his decision to quit before it was rejected by the party’s highest decision-making body. The CPP may also elect a new chairperson, a post currently held by Sonia Gandhi.
According to a senior leader who asked not to be named, one of the suggestions to discuss the matter further involves calling a session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) to give an opportunity to Gandhi to interact directly with 2,000-odd delegates from across the country.
A second party functionary, however, did not rule out another CWC meeting within the next couple of days to end the uncertainty triggered by Gandhi’s purported insistence on quitting despite the May 25 resolution.
As per the Congress constitution, all CWC resolutions have to be ratified by the AICC. “AICC is the appropriate forum where Rahul Gandhi can put his views before the delegates and announce his future plan,” the leader said.
The Congress has witnessed similar situations in the past too.
On May 15, 1999, just before the Lok Sabha elections, the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi resigned from the post after senior leaders Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar opposed her being projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, ostensibly on the grounds of her foreign origin.
The move prompted hunger strikes and protests by Congress workers across the country. She finally agreed to take back her resignation within five days after the party expelled Pawar, Sangma and Anwar. A special AICC session was called on May 25, 1999 to welcome her back as the party president.
Exactly 20 years later on the same day, Rahul Gandhi offered his resignation from the Congress chief’s post.
Sonia Gandhi again stunned the world in May 2004 when she declined the Prime Minister’s post after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power.
The decision prompted nationwide protests but Sonia Gandhi stood firm.
“I have listened to my inner voice. Power in itself has never attracted me, nor has position been my goal,” she told a meeting of the Congress parliamentary party (CPP).
Since the CWC meeting on May 25, Rahul Gandhi has had just a few brief interactions with party colleagues.
He only met senior leaders Ahmed Patel and KC Venugopal on Monday and attended a prayer function in memory of his great grandfather and the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to mark his 55th death anniversary.
On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi held brief but separate discussions with Venugopal and party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
However, he did not meet Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot who were at his 12, Tughlaq Lane residence for a meeting with his sister and Congress general secretary for east Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi did not meet Delhi Congress president Sheila Dikshit who, along with other party colleagues and workers, staged a sit-in outside his residence to plead with him to reconsider his resignation offer. She conveyed the message through one of his aides.
Also on Wednesday, a photo went viral of Rahul Gandhi taking out his pet, Pidi, on a ride.
But the Congress president took to Twitter to congratulate Naveen Patnaik on being sworn in as Odisha chief minister for a record fifth term.
“This is indeed an incredible achievement. My best wishes to him and to the people of Odisha,” he tweeted.
Several state units such as Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala have passed resolutions urging Rahul Gandhi to stay on.
Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said he will meet the Congress president on Thursday and request him to continue in the post. This comes a day after Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad urged him not to resign.