Reflecting the deepening chasm between the old guard and Team Rahul, a group of young Congress Secretaries today attacked senior leaders going public with "negative" comments damaging the party's image even as Rahul Gandhi sought to downplay the rift.
Expressing their strong disapproval against veterans "going public with negative comments", the young AICC secretaries today met Janardan Dwivedi, who had made some carping comments recently, to convey their displeasure.
"We, the undersigned, have been observing and feeling very strongly that, of late, there comes a statement from different rungs of Congressmen which is not in the interest of the party.
"If there is any concern it should be expressed in a very dignified manner and at an appropriate place within the party forum.....But surely not in the way which has been by some of our respected senior Congressmen.
"It should also be noted that these are the very leaders who are expressing their views in public in recent times themselves have been part and parcel of the party's highest decision making body," the young leaders said in a letter handed over to Dwivedi.
The letter does not name any leader in person but it was apparently aimed at number of leaders, who have criticised Gandhi and his team's strategy during the polls. The latest instance was of Digvijay Singh, who said that Rahul Gandhi's silence on critical issues had contributed to their loss in the "war of perception".
Dwivedi had recently made remarks prescribing a cut-off age for taking up active posts, which also elicited angry reactions as one of the secretaries suggested that those advocating any such thing should "first set an example" by quitting from their posts.
However, Digvijay Singh said he welcomed the demand of the young leaders "for change".
On his party, the Congress Vice President, who was on a visit to his Lok Sabha constituency Amethi sought to paper over the rift.
"There are multiple voices in Congress party" and all these voices will bring solution to it. There are always these types of tension and we will deal with them," he said when his comments were sought on the infighting after the election debacle.
The young leaders said that those saying that Rahul Gandhi did not speak enough should also understand that some of them spoke too much and that damaged the party.
Dwivedi has been asked to circulate the letter to all senior leaders, Congress Working Committee members and general secretaries, the AICC secretaries.
The letter move comes after a series of meetings among 14 young AICC secretaries, who are close to Rahul, and who feel that certain remarks made by senior party leaders were critical of the leadership of Rahul Gandhi and appeared to blame him for the defeat.
They urged leaders to "consciously refrain from going public with any negative comments with regards to the party".
"At this juncture, we feel that our attack should be directed at our Opposition, who is actually working against the interest of common masses," they said.
While four secretaries Fairish Chaudhary, Naseeb Singh, Prakash Joshi and Shakeel Ahmed Khan had a meeting with Dwivedi, the other signatories to the letter include Shakeel Ahmed Khan, Girish Chodankar, Zuber Khan, Suraj Hegde, Kuljit Nagra, Hunker Sarkar and Sanjay Kapoor.
Three others D Chellakumar, Bhupen Bora and Rana Goswami have also given their consent for the letter, which includdes their names minus signatures, the sources said.
Most of these secretaries were picked up by Rahul Gandhi and their grouping is an attempt to insulate the Congress Vice President from the attack from the old guard, which seems to be on their way out in the proposed massive restructuring of the party.
Talking to PTI Prakash Joshi said that the senior leaders leaders making public statements finding fault with Rahul Gandhi's style should first introspect as to how far they discharged the responsibility that was given to them in states where they served as Chief Minister or where they looked after the organization.
Talking to reporters in the AICC, Naseeb Singh said that some leaders have made similar "irresponsible statements" even before the elections, which created an atmosphere against the party and damaged it.
"We had to come out as seniors are not countering the deficiencies of Modi government," he said. Recalling that Rahul Gandhi had campaigned for the party in 2004 and 2009 as well, he said that when he was not given credit for victory then, why he is being blamed for the defeat now.
Naseeb Singh said those who are saying that the reverses in Lok Sabha polls happened because Rahul Gandhi did not speak enough should also realise that the party also suffered due to their tendency to "over-speak".
In two tweets, Digvijay Singh, who was under attack from the young AICC secretaries, said, "I support the demand of Secretaries of AICC. Generational Change must happen. It has been a pleasure working with my Secretaries in the AICC.
"Thank God younger generation of Congress now demanding Generational Change which I have been suggesting since Burari AICC in 2009 December."
Replying to questions over the ongoing tussle between AICC secretaries and some senior leaders, AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistry said it was an internal matter of the party and would be resolved.
A senior party functionary speaking on condition of anonymity said these controversies will "die down" naturally and indicated that any action like replacing some general secretaries could be taken up at a later time.
He compared the rumblings to "thunderstorms" shown in a weather chart which have "localised effects".
Another secretary, Zuber Khan, said that senior leaders making such public statements had never happened in the party earlier.
"Why they are making statements in the media rather than expressing their views at the party forum," Khan said.
There was talk that Congress President Sonia Gandhi has stepped in to ensure that the situation does not go out of control and asked AICC secretaries not to write any letter. However, the secretaries denied having received any such directive.
However, it was apparent that there has been some course correction as the contents of the letter was much subdued and instead of the AICC secretaries directly writing to all senior leaders, Dwivedi, who is the general secretary in-charge for Organisation, has been handed the same for forwarding to others.
In the letter, the secretaries told Dwivedi that "we shall be glad if you could circulate our sentiments to all senior leaders of the party".
Prakash Joshi, a young secretary looking after key areas of Uttar Pradesh, said it may be that "some leaders are feeling uneasy wih Rahul Gandhi's vision for running the party".
He, however, wondered what was wrong if the Congress vice president wanted to develop a system through which all party workers are given responsibility and recognition according to their capacity at each level "without any approach and recommendation".