Sonia Gandhi’s move is a follow-up to the Congress leadership meeting on Sunday

New Delhi:

Congress president Sonia Gandhi today sacked the party’s chiefs in the five states where it suffered massive defeats last week, taking what it called the first step towards “reorganisation”. Navjot Singh Sidhu, who took over as Punjab Congress chief eight months ago, is among the leaders asked to resign.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted that the resignations were sought to “facilitate the reorganisation” of the state Congress units.

The Congress lost Punjab to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and failed to put up a credible fight in the four states where it had hoped for a comeback – or even manage a close contest with the BJP.

The Punjab loss was the worst; the Congress collapsed after months of infighting as Mr Sidhu clashed with veteran Amarinder Singh as well as his eleventh-hour replacement Charanjit Singh Channi.

Sonia Gandhi’s move is a follow-up to the Congress leadership meeting on Sunday to discuss the latest poll drubbings.

In her speech to senior leaders at the Congress Working Committee (CWC)’s poll post-mortem, Sonia Gandhi offered to resign along with her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Mrs Gandhi presented the resignation offer as the “ultimate sacrifice in the interest of the party”, according to party leaders. But it was “unanimously rejected”, the leaders said.

“Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi said that she along with her family members Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are ready to sacrifice their posts for the party, but we all rejected this,” senior leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhary told news agency ANI.

Rahul Gandhi, however, does not hold any post in the party after he quit as Congress president owning responsibility for the Congress’s 2019 national election drubbing.

After a four-and-a-half hour meeting, the CWC said Sonia Gandhi would remain party president and authorised her to take “effective and immediate steps” to address organisational issues.

The party even put out a video of all its former leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, on its Twitter handle, signalling that the Gandhis would remain in charge.

The Congress “dissidents” or G-23 – the group of 23 leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi calling for sweeping organisational changes – have been critical of the Gandhis’ leadership and have openly called for a complete overhaul.

Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, a very vocal member of the G-23, said the Gandhis should step aside and give some other leader a chance to lead the party.

“Leadership is in cuckoo land… I want a ‘Sab ki Congress’. Some want a ‘Ghar ki Congress‘,” Mr Sibal told the Indian Express in an interview.

Those remarks have intensified the “Congress versus Congress” feud that has defined the party since it lost power in 2014 and faced many more election defeats.