Sonia Gandhi will continue as Congress party's interim president for now, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) that met on Monday for seven hours decided.
The CWC closed ranks behind Sonia Gandhi, urging her to stay on as party chief after she offered to step down as interim president following a letter by some leaders demanding an "active, full-time and visible" president.
"The CWC unanimously requests Sonia Gandhi to continue to lead the Indian National Congress until such time as circumstances will permit an AICC session to be convened," the CWC resolution stated.
The CWC in its resolution made it clear that "no one will be permitted to undermine or weaken party or its leadership." The CWC authorised Sonia Gandhi to affect necessary organisational changes to deal with challenges facing the party.
Though a large section of the leaders backed Sonia Gandhi at the nearly seven-hour virtual meeting of the Congress’ highest decision making body to discuss the pivotal leadership issue, the faultlines were clear and appeared to deepen at some points as the day progressed.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh led the demand for Sonia Gandhi continuing as Congress president and leader after leader echoed him while attacking the letter writers, particularly Ghulam Nabi Azad, the senior-most signatory and a CWC member, sources said.
Singh also suggested the holding AICC session to start the process of holding elections for a new party chief.
However, the CWC endorsed Sonia Gandhi's continuation as party chief.
In her closing remarks, Sonia Gandhi told the CWC that the party needs to be united in its fight against the BJP. She said that she holds no ill feeling against anyone.
Former president Rahul Gandhi launched a sharp attack against the signatories, questioning their timing as well as the fact they went public with their grievances. He also rued the fact that the letter – seeking sweeping changes to the party organisation and elections to the CWC -- was written when Sonia Gandhi was in hospital and the party was battling a political crisis in Rajasthan.
He said Sonia Gandhi had accepted charge as party president only after the CWC last year urged her to take the responsibility.
"It is the CWC and not the media, where we voice our grievances and discuss issues," sources quoted Rahul Gandhi as telling the CWC members.
They also said Rahul insinuated that the letter would strengthen the BJP.
The CWS resolution also stated that the inner-party issues "can not be deliberated through the media or in public fora."
The CWC urged "and advises" all concerned party members to raise "such issues only in party fora in the interest of propriety and discipline."
Earlier in the day, Kapil Sibal, senior leader and one of the signatories of the letter, created a flutter when he hit out at Rahul Gandhi on Twitter for a purported remark on the BJP.
Sibal, who is not a part of the CWC, withdrew his tweet a little later.
"Was informed by Rahul Gandhi personally that he never said what was attributed to him. I therefore withdraw my tweet," he said on Twitter.
The Congress also denied that Rahul Gandhi had accused any party leader of "colluding with the BJP".
"Rahul Gandhi hasn't said a word of this nature nor alluded to it. Please don't be misled by false media discourse or misinformation being spread.
"But yes, we all need to work together in fighting the draconian Modi rule rather then fighting & hurting each other and the Congress," the party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter, tagging Sibal's earlier tweet.
Azad, too, attempted to set the record straight.
The leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha said a section of media is "wrongly attributing that, in CWC I told Shri 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.”
(With PTI Inputs)