No alternative to Gandhis in Congress, dissenting voices as party not in power: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

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Updated: Sep 02, 2020 4:38 PM

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the Congress has failed to find an alternative to the Gandhis, who alone can keep the party united with their pan-India appeal.

Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. (File)

Attacking Congressmen who raised questions over the party leadership, leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said on Wednesday they were “beneficiaries of the system” and that no voice of dissent would have been heard had the party been in power at the Centre. He also said the Congress has failed to find an alternative to the Gandhis, who alone can keep the party united with their pan-India appeal.

“A political party is not a static entity, it is a dynamic one where change is constant. These divergent views and calls for reforms are coming up as we are not in power. Had we been in power, you wouldn’t have found any dissenting voices,” he told PTI in an interview.

His comments came days after 23 senior leaders wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi calling for far-reaching reforms such as having a “full time, active and visible” leadership, devolution of powers to state units and an elected working committee.

Chowdhury, who is a member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the highest decision making body of the party, said those who raised questions over the functioning of the party have been an integral part of it for decades.

“Those who are raising questions now have been very much part of this system for decades and have been beneficiaries of it. So why are they questioning it now? The bone of contention is the way the letter was leaked to the media before the working committee meeting. Such letters will only help the BJP in attacking the Congress,” he said.

Chowdhury, a staunch Gandhi family loyalist, insisted there was no alternative to them.

“It is not the failure of the family (to find an alternative leadership), but the lakhs of Congress workers and leaders across the country who have not been able to find a suitable replacement to the Gandhi family with a pan-India appeal,” he added.

He, however, somewhat sought to downplay the apparent rift within the party over the leadership question, and accused the media of trying to present a wrong picture.

“The media has been trying to label our intraparty debate and discussion as friction between pro-change and no-change. Such debate and discussion is an integral part of the Congress culture. It is the reflection of the democratic set up in the party,” Chowdhury said.

The five-time MP from Baharampur said the BJP’s call for a “Congress-Mukt Bharat” means shearing India of the ideas of secularism, inclusiveness and democracy, and such letters only provide ammunition to the ruling side to “demean” the Congress.

The Congress does not have any viable replacement for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, and it will be wrong to blame them entirely for the party’s dismal electoral performance, he said.

“The fact is we have failed to find their alternative, who can keep the party united and has a pan-India appeal like them. We have seen non-Gandhi party presidents and witnessed the results. Rahul Gandhi took responsibility (for poll debacle) and stepped down last year, but we failed to find an alternative. They act as glue which keeps us united,” he said.

Even the letter writers have not questioned the contributions of the Gandhi family and have only asked for a way forward, he said, adding that the issue of leadership will be resolved very soon.

“The media loves to talk about elections in the Congress, but what about BJP and other parties. Are their presidents chosen through elections? Rahul Gandhi is the most popular leader in the party and will continue to be so,” Chowdhury asserted.

He dismissed suggestions about the letter writers being sidelined in the Congress.

“You could have called it a snub had we removed any of the letter writers from the parliamentary standing committees. But the changes were made only in parliamentary party committee. These are full-time jobs, a leader, deputy leader and chief whip are assigned to monitor Parliament proceedings. Manish Tewari doesn’t spend much time in Lok Sabha,” he said.

Chowdhury said none of the 23 letter writers have faced disciplinary action or demotion.

“Can you imagine such a thing in the present-day BJP where you can go scot-free after questioning the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah? The answer is no. But you can do it in Congress,” he said.

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