NEW DELHI: Days after Congress leader Shehzad Poonawalla alleged that election for the post of president in Congress was rigged in favour of vice-president Rahul Gandhi, an audiotape has emerged that reportedly reveals that further raises question over the election process.
The audio clip has purported conversation between Poonawalla and former Union Minister and senior Congress leader Manish Tewari.
In the clip, Tewari is heard telling Poonawalla that his recent 'rigged' remarks against the election process were "one-way ticket out of the party".
When Poonawalla justifies his stand by pointing out that proper procedure had not been followed in the selection of delegates before the polls, Tewari is heard replying, "Let’s not get into an idealistic discussion, the fact is, this is a proprietary (party). Congress is not a political party and no party in India is a political party."
The latter also said that it was a second chance of reforms which is essential for democracy.
In a major embarrassment to Congress, Shehzad Poonawalla, party spokesperson and a relative of Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, questioned the process to elect party president, calling it "rigged".
"The upcoming Congress president election is a selection and not an election. It's a sham election process. I think there should be only one ticket in one family, be it Shehzad Poonawalla or Rahul Gandhi," he said.
Poonawalla, the Maharashtra Congress Secretary, had on Wednesday asked Rahul Gandhi to first resign from his post.
Poonawalla had said he would also contest the election if it was conducted in a "genuine" manner.
He had also reportedly written a letter to Rahul Gandhi in this regard.
"I cannot contest a rigged election. If the system is genuine, then I will contest. It is a rigged election...it is a selection. Delegates who are going to vote for this election have not been elected as per the constitutional requirements. They have been handpicked," he was quoted as saying by IANS.
"I will contest if Rahul Gandhi Ji agrees to first have genuinely-elected delegates and not hand-picked delegates. Second, he must give up his post because he has an unfair advantage by being the vice president. He has been selected and not elected as VP. He will leave his post, I will leave my post... Then we can contest,'' he added.
"Third, will he be ready for a televised debate where we both as contestants can have a debate on what is our vision for the Congress party? We can be judged on merit, not on the surname," he said.
"And finally, I want him to accept that our party must have a rule of one family-one ticket. I will be happy to contest a genuine election, not in a rigged election," the party leader added.
In his letter to Gandhi, Poonawalla asked several questions.
"Firstly, a common party worker like me joined the party in 2008-09. I spent time, energy and money working voluntarily for the party at all levels and finally got elevated after eight years to the position of a Secretary in a state unit in 2016.
"But how and why (other than your surname) did you in the same time span start off with an MP seat in 2004 itself, get general secretaryship in 2007 and then graduate to vice-presidentship of the national unit while your mother was the President?" he wrote.
"Did you win us more elections, were you genuinely elected to these posts, did you give better speeches than other leaders? You must, therefore, resign from the VP post and contest as an ordinary member for the election of the president. How can it be a fair contest if a common worker has to contest against the VP (who was selected and not elected as the VP or the number two in the party)?" he said.
"Since the delegate system is completely rigged and manipulated, for a fair fight for the presidentship, will you allow real delegates to get appointed and vote rather than a bunch of handpicked 'yes' men?
"If not, will you at least face your rival in a televised debate to see who articulates a better vision for the Congress party and India? Will you allow yourself to be judged on merit rather than your surname? If yes, let's have that contest. I am ready."
"You failed to deliver on the promise that IYC, NSUI won't end up electing children of 'netas'. Will you at least now curb the innumerable dynasts who are given tickets and posts in the party by implementing the rule - one ticket/post to only one member of any family, Poonawalla asked.
"So if I have a party ticket or post - my brother, sister, mother, brother-in-law, etc cannot be eligible for a ticket or post. We are not into some family business, are we?" his letter read.
However, soon after his claims, several party leaders came out in defence of the Gandhi scion and calling him a disgruntled worker of the party.