- Jitin Prasada was among the signatories of the “dissent letter
- A Congress unit in Uttar Pradesh has demanded action against him
- Senior leaders Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari have criticized the move
Four days after the Congress called a wrap on its “dissent letter” crisis after a meeting where leaders reaffirmed the Gandhis’ leadership, there are signs to the contrary. A Congress unit in Uttar Pradesh has demanded action against all the letter writers, with special mention of former union minister Jitin Prasada.
Senior leader Kapil Sibal, another signatory to the letter, criticized the move in a tweet. “Unfortunate that Jitin Prasada is being officially targeted in UP Congress needs to target the BJP with surgical strikes instead wasting its energy by targeting its own,” he wrote.
Manish Tewari responded to Mr Sibal’s post with a single word: “Prescient!”
The three are among the 23 Congress leaders who wrote to interim party president Sonia Gandhi calling for sweeping reforms, collective decision-making and “full-time, visible leadership”, causing fresh convulsions in the party as it struggles to retain its political relevance.
In a resolution addressed to Sonia Gandhi, the Congress unit of Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district – around 130 km from Lucknow — has called for action against all 23 signatories but singles out Jitin Prasada, the party’s Brahmin face in UP. Mr Prasada had represented the Dhaurahra Lok Sabha seat, which is a part of Lakhimpur Kheri, in 2009.
“Jitin Prasada is the only person from Uttar Pradesh to have signed the letter. His family history has been against the Gandhi family and his father Jitendra Prasad proved it by fighting elections against Sonia Gandhi. Despite this, Sonia Gandhi gave Jitin Prasada a Lok Sabha ticket and made him a minister. What he has done is gross indiscipline and the district Congress committee wants strict action against him and condemns his actions,” the resolution reads.
The Congress said the UP letter does not have the sanction of either Sonia Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is the central leader in charge of the state. The party’s UP chief Ajay Kumar Lallu, however, said: “These are the feelings of party workers, how can one stop such feelings.”
In March 2019, just before the Lok Sabha elections, Mr Prasada had rubbished rumours that he was quitting the Congress and was headed to the BJP.
Jitin Prasada’s father Jitendra Prasada, a veteran Congress leader, had challenged the leadership of Rahul Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi in 1999 and had also contested against her for the post of party chief. Jitendra Prasada lost the bid. He died two years later in 2002.
The letter written by the ginger group is viewed as the first challenge to the Gandhi leadership since 1999.
A Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Monday to discuss the letter took the predictable route of praising Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi and attacking the letter writers as “traitors”.
It concluded with the Congress promising a committee to look into the grievances of the signatories to the letter and affirming that Sonia Gandhi would continue as interim chief until an All India Congress Committee meeting where her successor would be chosen.
Despite Sonia Gandhi’s closing note of “bygones are bygones”, the letter writers remain an isolated group and the party’s divide seems more pronounced than ever.