Subhas Chandra Bose was elected president of the Indian National Congress twice but he resigned after conflicting ideas of independent India. Photograph:( AFP )
Another signatory to the letter, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, however, declined to comment on the party's 'internal matters'
Former Punjab Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, whose name figured in the list of 23 leaders, who demanded an "active, full-time and visible" party president, said on Monday that their communication should not be seen as dissent, but good suggestions were given in party's interest.
Another signatory to the letter, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, however, declined to comment on the party's "internal matters".
Bhattal said that Sonia Gandhi had been made interim president of the Congress last year.
That was less than two years after she voluntarily relinquished the top post in favour of her son Rahul Gandhi who refused to continue as Congress chief (after the 2019 general election defeat), the former Punjab CM said.
After her tenure (as interim chief) came to an end on August 10, Congress had said that Sonia Gandhi will continue in the post till such time a "proper procedure" is implemented in the "not too distant future" to elect a party chief.
"She (Sonia Gandhi) had said that she will continue for one year and her tenure was to come to an end on August 10. Rahul ji had earlier said that he does not want to continue as party chief.
"In light of these things, we had given our suggestions (in the letter). Those who have read the full contents of the letter know that we have praised Sonia Gandhi and her leadership," Bhattal told PTI.
She said that despite the tragedies Sonia Gandhi faced on the personal front -- losing her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi and husband Rajiv Gandhi -- "she moved on and effectively guided the Congress and formed government at the Centre twice".
"Soniaji's leadership is acceptable to all, but we had said that a working group be formed under her which will be directly answerable to her. This was our demand, there is nothing wrong, it was not dissent, it was a suggestion letter, we gave good points to make the party strong," said the senior Congress leader.
On the other hand, when asked about the letter during an informal chat, Hooda replied, "I won't make any comment on the party's internal matters." He, however, said the Congress needs to be strengthened.
The Congress Working Committee on Monday urged Sonia Gandhi to continue as its interim chief till an AICC session can be convened and authorised her to effect necessary organisational changes to deal with the challenges facing the party.
At an over seven-hour long meeting, which took place in the backdrop of more than 20 party leaders seeking an immediate organisational overhaul and a collective leadership, Gandhi is said to have offered to quit but was requested by the party's top decision-making panel with over 50 members to stay on.
Bhattal said, "We had suggested that a working group should be formed under her and an AICC session should be summoned. We always accepted Sonia ji's leadership and never were any question marks raised. We have been well-wishers of the Nehru-Gandhi family, which made sacrifices for the nation's sake."
She said that Sonia Gandhi ran things quite smoothly being at the helm.
"But she had herself said last year that she will be there for one year. It is good that she will continue now," Bhattal said.
Bhattal said assembly elections are due in Punjab in over a year, polls in other states are going to take place in coming months and the suggestions they gave was to strength party for the elections also.
Asked why then there has been criticism to their letter, Bhattal replied: "Sometimes, things get misinterpreted in the media. We all want that Congress should be further strengthened. It is a grand old party which first fought for the country's freedom and then ran the country for all these years. To speak for strengthening the party, I think there is nothing wrong in that."