Congress sees mass resignations after Rahul Gandhi exits as party chief. What next?

In the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s decision to resign as Congress president on Wednesday, June 26, as many as 130 Congress leaders quit in a sign of solidarity by the end of the week.

In the presence of UPA chairperson and mother Sonia Gandhi, Rahul proferred a written resignation last week that AICC secretaries, youth Congress leaders, and Mahila Congress office-bearers reportedly approved.

On Thursday, Rahul, who had said his stepping down was necessary to ensure accountability for the party’s sweeping loss in the recent Lok Sabha polls, stuck to his decision, saying there was no question of going back on it.

He had said it was up to the Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, to appoint a new president.

Mass resignations

The move was followed by a flurry of resignations soon after from all corners of the country. By Friday, scores of senior leaders and office-bearers, working presidents, state general secretaries, and heads of the party’s cells had quit, purportedly in Rahul’s honour. Some 36 MPs have resigned in Uttar Pradesh alone.

Notable among those who tendered their resignations was MP Vivek Tankha, chairman of the party’s legal and human rights cell, who urged others to follow suit to give a free hand to Rahul to restructure the party at all levels.

In a series of tweets, Tankha said the Congress cannot afford a stalemate for too long and urged Rahul to revive the party as “a fighting force”. In another, he addressed Rahul: “You have the commitment and determination. Just cobble a good, acceptable and influential nation-wide team.”

Congress general secretary in Madhya Pradesh Dipak Babaria, Goa unit chief Girish Chodankar, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee working president Rajesh Lilothia, and Telangana PCC working president Ponnam Prabhakar, all resigned taking full responsibility for the Lok Sabha poll debacle of the party in their respective states.

Chodankar tweeted, “The firm decision of Rahul Gandhi Ji to not withdraw his resignation as Congress President, morally does not permit me to continue. The defeat is our collective responsibility, hence I hereby tender my resignation forthwith as Goa Congress President.”

Babaria issued a similar statement claiming that the poll debacle reflected poorly on all state unit presidents “who were in the front and who were responsible for leading the party in their respective states”.

A common letter of resignation was circulated on social media with the names and signatures of others who resigned in solidarity. Signatories included Haryana Mahila Congress chief Sumitra Chauhan, and All India Congress Committee secretaries Rajesh Dharmani and Virender Rathore.

Others who resigned include General Secretary Netta P Sangma of Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh secretary Anil Chaudhary, and Haryana secretary Satyavir Yadav, IANS said.

How has the party responded

Meanwhile, the party has not responded to these mass resignations. Rahul himself remains adamant on giving up the presidency.

Responding to requests made during a meeting with leaders from Haryana state coordination committee, who urged him to continue leading the party and take back his resignation, Rahul said, “I have resigned after taking full responsibility and ensuring accountability for the party’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.”

When some MPs told him that leaders would start resigning, he said, “If someone wants to leave the party, they are free to do so today instead of tomorrow. I am here and will continue to be in the party and work for the Congress.”

“I cannot ask others to resign too. It is up to them if they want to take responsibility,” he further told Haryana Congress leaders in light of the party’s recent performance in the state, where it failed to secure a single seat.

Left in the lurch?

However, the meeting remained inconclusive as Gandhi declined to comment on the party’s future strategy in the upcoming Haryana Assembly elections later this year, asking the state unit to discuss among themselves and leaving them in the lurch.

Meanwhile, Ashok Tanwar continues to be Haryana Congress chief and has not quit despite his tenure coming to an end, NDTV reported. Leaders spoke to Rahul separately, reported the agency, expressing their hope that the party would take a call on the state leadership soon.

Those present at the meeting besides Tanwar were Congress general secretary in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda. State CLP leader Kiran Choudhry, Congress MLA and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, and Kuldeep Bishnoi were among the notable absentees.

Will this resolve the leadership crisis?

The decision of the Congress president to resign from his post and make way for someone outside the Nehru-Gandhi family at the helm of the Grand Old Party has found resonance and support among anti-dynasts on both sides of the political spectrum. BJP has long since been cribbing about it, as have well-wishers of the party who swing away from its authoritarian hierarchies.

Congress’s recent victories in the 2018 Assembly elections from three states in the Hindi heartland prove that the party has young and capable leaders who are not carrying the Nehru-Gandhi baggage. They can take over and give the country what it really needs: a strong Opposition.

While chief ministers in several Congress states are seeking a meeting with Rahul to change his mind, what the CWC should really do is seriously consider opting for a more experienced leader.

Dynastic forces like the Gandhis, Gehlot, Scindia, and Nath should consider taking a step back and playing their part in the democratic mechanism, guiding the new leaders that a new India needs—behind the scenes instead of acquiring centre stage.

Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius

CongressRahul GandhiSonia Gandhi