The meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), called to analyse the party’s election rout and chart the future course of action, turned out to be a well-orchestrated show to shield Sonia and Rahul Gandhi from blame.
In what appeared to have been a pre-scripted move, both Sonia and Rahul offered to resign taking responsibility for the disaster, only to have the CWC reject the proposal unanimously and reaffirm its faith in their leadership.
There was no criticism of Rahul’s leadership of the election campaign, nor mention of the mismanagement by his team, about which several Congress leaders have been complaining privately.
Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took responsibility for shortcomings at the level of the government, but received lavish praise, first from Sonia and then in the resolution that the CWC adopted. There was no attempt to fix accountability for the party’s worst-ever performance.
Sonia spoke about the need for “serious and in-depth” introspection on what went wrong, and whether the party was in tune with the aspirations of the people, especially the youth.
She ended by saying, “I believe I have not been able to bring about the necessary changes to strengthen the party. Therefore, I take full responsibility for this crushing defeat and I am prepared to relinquish my position.”
This was received by a few seconds of silence, immediately after which the old guard of R K Dhawan, M L Fotedar and Ajit Jogi sprang to reject the proposal. Jogi, who appeared not to believe what he had heard, asked Sonia to repeat what she had said. She did so four or five times, her voice choking the last time.
Rahul spoke next, and said he too wanted to step down for having failed to fulfill the expectations the party had of him. He said he had been talking about bringing accountability, and that it was only fair that it began with him.
Manmohan Singh intervened to say resignations were no “solution”. “How can you go. There is no question. We have a role to play,” Singh is learnt to have said.
This opened the floodgates, and member after CWC member beseeched Sonia and Rahul to stay on. For nearly half of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, they took turns to reject the resignations, and implored Sonia and Rahul to stay at the helm in the hour of crisis. Anil Shastri was among those who argued that the fight against the RSS-BJP needed their leadership,