‘I’m full-time president’

New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI): “I am a full-time and hands-on Congress president,” Sonia Gandhi asserted at the crucial Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Saturday, in a clear message to the G23 leaders, some of whom have raised issues regarding lack of leadership and absence of an elected party chief.
During her address at the party’s highest decision-making body, Gandhi said the revival of the party can only happen with “unity, self-control, discipline and by keeping the party’s interests paramount”. In a mild reprimand to those G23 leaders who have been airing their criticism of the party in the media, the Congress chief said she has always appreciated frankness and “there is no need to speak to me through the media”.
“So, let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC,” she said in her opening remarks at the meeting. Her remarks came after senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal had recently said that at the moment, there was no president in the party, so it was not known who was taking decisions. Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sibal, both members of the ‘Group of 23 leaders’, who sought major organisational overhaul last year, had also demanded an early meeting of the CWC to discuss the declining fortunes of the party in the wake of recent defections.
At the meeting, Gandhi also placed on the table the party’s organisational election schedule before the CWC, with sources indicating that the process could be long-drawn and the elections to the post of Congress president will be held in September 2022.
“I am, if you will allow me to say so, a full-time and hands-on Congress president,” Sonia Gandhi asserted.
The 74-year-old leader also pointed out that in the last two years, a large number of Congress leaders, particularly the younger ones, have taken on leadership roles in communicating party policies and programmes to the people.
“Never have we let issues of public importance and concern go unaddressed. You are aware that I have been taking them up with the Prime Minister as have Dr Manmohan Singh and Rahul (Gandhi)ji. I have been interacting with like-minded political parties regularly,” she said and added that the Opposition parties have issued joint statements on national issues and coordinated strategy in Parliament as well.
About the forthcoming assembly elections, the Congress chief said the party’s preparations have already started a while back and asserted that though there were many challenges, “if we are united, disciplined and focus on the party’s interests alone, I am confident that we will do well”.
Elaborating on the issues facing the country, the Congress chief noted the CWC is meeting in the background of the continuing agitation by farmers and that it has been over a year since the “three black (farm) laws were bulldozed through Parliament”.
Referring to the Lakhimpur Kheri violence in which four farmers were mowed down by an SUV on October 3, she said the shocking incident shows the mindset of the BJP as to how it perceives the farmers’ movement and how it has been dealing with this determined struggle by the farmers to protect their lives and livelihoods.

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