Congress dissenters join Ghulam Nabi Azad on Jammu trip
Several Congress leaders have joined the veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu for an event in what could be the first public manifestation of a revolt brewing within the party after the collapse of a reconciliation process with dissenters known as the “Group of 23”.
There is more to the Jammu gathering than demonstration of solidarity with Azad whose Rajya Sabha term ended this month.
Although the contours of the future course of action have not taken shape yet, this is definitely a pressure tactic to make Rahul Gandhi understand that any decision to sideline the dissenters will not be tolerated. But for a substantial course correction by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul, a split in the Congress cannot be ruled out at this stage.
Those who reached Jammu on Friday to be with Azad on his tour of his home state are former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, former Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari, former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar, and head of the party’s legal and human rights cell Vivek Tankha.
The reason they cited for their presence in Jammu is an invite from an NGO — the Gandhi Global Family Foundation — for a programme on Saturday.
Asked if this was like delivering a warning to the leadership after conveying their sentiments through a letter to Congress chief Sonia on the drift in the party, a senior leader told The Telegraph: “Warning for what? We are in the Congress and all our efforts are aimed at strengthening the Congress. We are not going to retire from politics only because some leaders want so.”
Another leader said: “Azad was ill-treated. The agreement worked out with Sonia Gandhi in December was violated. We don’t hide our sense of hurt.”
“Decisions cannot be taken based on pique and personal likes and dislikes. The party belongs to all of us, we have nurtured it with our blood and toil since Indira Gandhi’s days,” one
of the G-23 leaders had told this newspaper a few days ago.
While Azad had not informed the Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress about his tour, local office-bearers too had not been invited to the programme by the Gandhian institute.
It was only after the central leadership intervened late on Thursday night that a reception for Azad at the party office in Jammu was organised on Friday. Azad was requested to visit the office to avoid sending a wrong message and the local office-bearers were asked to receive him at the airport.
Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir himself organised the reception at the party office and described Azad as the best ambassador of the Union Territory in India. Azad too asked every Congress worker to strengthen the party in these difficult times. He stressed that the Congress worked to unite the society while the BJP divided people on religious lines.
But that conciliatory gesture failed to alter the script as the dissenting leaders reached Jammu by the evening flight for Saturday’s programme. This was neither appreciated by central leaders nor Jammu and Kashmir functionaries even as the party tried to downplay the development.
Barely two days ago, two leaders from the G-23, Sharma and Sibal, had subtly disapproved of Rahul’s statement about the different kinds of politics in the south and the north.
Some other issues being flagged by a section within the party include the emergence of a coterie around Rahul and the opaque decision-making processes.
One leader said: “Why was Randeep Surjewala sent for seat-sharing negotiations with the DMK in Tamil Nadu after the disastrous experience in the Bihar elections ? Who is taking the decisions?”