Cong mulls Chintan shivir, parliamentary board revival

Chintan shivir, parliamentary board on Congress menu for revival

Sonia Gandhi said that Congress is 'one big family' and everyone must put in efforts to strengthen the party

Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

Five months after the ‘dissent’ letter, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday met senior party leaders – the first face-to-face meeting in eight months – to chart out plans to revive the organisation reeling under successive electoral losses.

The four-hour meeting on the lawns of Gandhi’s 10, Janpath residence, was attended by 19 leaders, including some of the 23 letter writers, who made suggestions for holding a brain-storming session (Chintan Shivir) and acting on the advice made by senior leaders on improving the functioning of the party.

The meeting, seen as an attempt by Gandhi to iron out internal differences, also saw the now customary calls for Rahul Gandhi to return as Congress President and reconstitution of the Congress Working Committee after the organisational elections.

“I am willing to work for the party as all of you desire,” Rahul told the meeting, according to senior leader Pawan Kumar Bansal.

However, sources said Rahul avoided a clear response on returning as party chief or contesting the presidential poll and merely referred to the process of organisational elections set in motion by the party.

Saturday’s meeting was attended by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari, Prithviraj Chavan – all ‘dissenters’ besides loyalists such as A K Antony, Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, Ambika Soni. Also present were P Chidambaram, Ajay Maken and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

At the outset, Gandhi made an emotional appeal saying the “Congress was one big family” and everyone should make efforts to strengthen it.

Reeling under successive electoral losses, Congress was rocked by a letter by 23 leaders demanding more visible leadership, a move that was seen as an attempt to challenge Gandhi’s leadership.

During the meeting, former Union Minister Manish Tewari made the suggestion on holding a Chintan Shivir on the lines of similar sessions held at Pachmarhi and Shimla in 1998 and 2003 when the Congress was in the opposition.

“This was the first meeting and several more such discussions will follow. We are satisfied with the discussions that took place today and we have put our views forward. We have to all work together in national interest and the interest of the Congress party,” former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, one of the 23 letter writers, told reporters after the meeting.

The leaders also sought regular meetings of the Congress Working Committee and revival of the Parliamentary Board to enable sharing of views on important issues.