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India's Congress party in crisis

The opposition Congress party in India is facing a revolt among regional leaders -- they are upset at the perceived autocracy of the party's top brass and the decision making that led to the electoral wipe-out earlier this year.

NEW DELHI: Province by province, Congress functionaries are openly criticising the power structure of the party -- they said it is undemocratic, consisting of cronies from the Gandhi family. The Gandhi family has been at the helm of Congress for almost six decades, led by president Sonia Gandhi and her son and vice-president, Rahul.

Two senior state party ministers have already resigned, protesting against the high command and the way it functions.

In North India, several leaders are openly rebelling. They accuse Rahul Gandhi of an arbitrary style of leadership and his mother of being over-protective -- a combination, they said, was the sole cause of the recent election debacle.

Gufran Azam, a Congress leader, said: "You (Sonia) wished to make him (Rahul) a leader and got 10 years for it. But you failed to make him a leader or make him speak properly. He failed to acquire political acumen. He remains the same. We're tired of hearing people address him as 'Pappu' and 'Munna'. We feel ashamed."

However, other senior leaders in the party are continuing to shield Rahul Gandhi from criticism.

Pramod Tiwari, also a leader in the Congress party, said: "I believe Rahul Gandhi is our future leader. Ups and downs are all part of politics. As far as our performance is concerned in the General Election, we will have to assess it and also look into our shortfalls. I am sure that we will once again make a comeback under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi."

There remains concern among some leaders that the ousting of Rahul Gandhi would cause the party to fracture. There have also been efforts to push his sister -- Priyanka -- into a leadership role, but she has only ever stepped into politics for campaigning purposes in the past and is reluctant.

There is in-fighting in the Congress party but the Gandhi family has quelled similar rebellions in the past. Publicly at least, they are refusing to acknowledge any challenge to the leadership status quo.

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