India's opposition Congress to meet after letter seeking leadership changes

NEW DELHI: India’s main opposition Congress called a meeting of its highest decision-making body on Monday, following a letter from almost two dozen top leaders seeking changes to the way the party is run.

Long a dominant force in Indian politics, the Congress has suffered two heavy defeats in general elections by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by current Prime Minster Narendra Modi.

The letter, that calls for better decision making within the party, is a rare challenge to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, that has dominated the Congress since India won independence from colonial power Great Britain in 1947.

The signatories of the letter expect the Gandhi family to either play a proactive role or step down, according to two sources in the party. Over 300 regional Congress politicians have also supported the letter, they added.

Local media reported the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi would offer to resign, though several figures in the party, including the chief ministers of Congress-led states, have publicly backed her to continue.

“News of 23 senior most Congress leaders writing (a) letter... is unbelievable and if it is true - it’s very unfortunate,” Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said in a tweet, calling for Sonia Gandhi to stay on.

Supporters of the Gandhi family stood outside party headquarters in the capital New Delhi on Monday, holding placards and shouting slogans.

A meeting of the Congress Working Committee is scheduled to begin at 1500 local time on Monday (0930 GMT)

Sonia Gandhi took over de-facto leadership of the party last year from her son Rahul. His father, grandmother and great-grandfather have all served as Prime Minster of India.