Gandhi family loyalist Mani Shankar, Tharoor at Congress G-23 meet

Expressing concern over the “demoralising” election debacle and continuing defections from Congress, dissident bloc G-23 on Wednesday said “collective and inclusive decision-making” is the only solution to the crisis gripping the party.

Crucially, the head of the ginger group, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is likely to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi soon, even as early as Thursday, to discuss the issues raised by the letter-writers. It is learnt that Sonia reached out to Azad on Wednesday morning. The G-23 leaders held a dinner meeting at the residence of Azad.

However, despite the outreach, the dissidents’ dinner discussions went beyond usual gripes to express a serious concern over the very sustainability of Congress, with many feeling that the party may be heading for a UP-like marginalisation in other states unless drastic correctives were taken immediately.

The attendees also slammed the recent appointments to carry out the post-debacle reorganisation, arguing that the ‘problems” were being asked to find “solutions”. The solutions to the crisis, proposed in the CWC meeting on Sunday, were termed as inadequate and cosmetic.

G23 is likely to demand a change of a key office bearer in the AICC who is close to Rahul Gandhi but has been in the dissident’s crosshairs. The dissidents, who have stepped up their activities after the Congress decimation in five state polls, issued a statement that stressed on the need to strike partnership with likeminded parties to take on BJP.

It said, “We believe the only way forward is for Congress to adopt the model of collective and inclusive leadership and decision-making at all levels. In order to oppose BJP, it is necessary to strengthen Congress. We demand Congress to initiate dialogue with other likeminded forces to create a platform to pave the way for a credible alternative for 2024. The next steps will be announced soon.” The meeting came in the backdrop of loyalists’ attacks on G-23 leaders.

Gandhi family loyalist Mani Shankar, Tharoor at Congress G-23 meet

A few mediators, including Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, recently reached out to the dissidents to urge reconciliation. If Azad meets Sonia, the acceptable compromise will be known. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will be other players in the final outcome.

The dinner was attended by some of the letter-writers, including MP Shashi Tharoor while one-time Gandhi family loyalist Mani Shankar Aiyar also joined in as did Punjab MP Preneet Kaur, wife of ousted ex-CM Amarinder Singh, former Haryana speaker Kuldeep Sharma, Gujarat leader Shankarsinh Vaghela and Punjab veteran Rajinder Kaur Bhattal —in all five former CMs.

Interestingly, the venue for the dinner was shifted from Kapil Sibal’s residence to that of Azad, as it was felt that his recent demand that the Gandhi family should leave the leadership of Congress was viewed as provocative which may make reconciliation difficult.

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