Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi both called Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday, the day he came under attack at a marathon party meeting over a “dissident” letter to which he was one of the signatories.
Sources say after the seven-hour meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), in which several speakers attacked Ghulam Nabi Azad directly or indirectly over the letter calling for “full-time, visible leadership”, Sonia Gandhi spoke to him and assured him that his concerns will be addressed.
Rahul Gandhi had spoken to Mr Azad earlier that day, when he also called up Kapil Sibal – another signatory to the letter – to clarify that he had not accused the letter writers of colluding with the BJP.
Mr Azad, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and a veteran Congress leader who has always been seen to be close to the Gandhis, found himself at the receiving end of searing criticism at the CWC meeting from colleagues who praised Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and targeted the letter writers.
Mallikarjun Kharge and Ambika Soni reportedly called for disciplinary action. When Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wanted Mr Azad to be stopped from speaking at the meeting – he said evil-intentioned people should not be allowed to speak – Sonia Gandhi reportedly reprimanded him.
Mr Azad said he would resign if it was established that those who wrote the letter collaborated with the BJP. He clarified later that what was initially seen to be a response to a comment attributed to Rahul Gandhi was directed at other Congress leaders who had been raising allegations without reading the letter.
“A section of media is wrongly attributing that, in CWC I told Rahul Gandhi to prove that the letter written by us is in collusion with BJP- let me make it very clear that Shri Rahul Gandhi has neither in CWC nor outside said that this letter was written at the behest of BJP,” Mr Azad tweeted.
Two more signatories to the letter who, like Mr Azad, are part of the CWC, reportedly said their intention was never to criticize the Gandhi leadership.
After the meeting, a few of the leaders who were signatories to the letter met at Mr Azad’s home in Delhi. Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Mukul Wasnik, Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor were at the meeting.
After the meeting, Mr Azad said the leaders were “satisfied” with the outcome of the meeting, which ended with Sonia Gandhi sounding a conciliatory note; “I am hurt but they are my colleagues, bygones are bygones, let us work together,” she said.
“Sonia Gandhi will stay interim president until an AICC session. The Congress will have a permanent president after six months, which is good as it will end ad-hocism,” Mr Azad told NDTV.