The occasion was a function of an NGO called ‘Gandhi Global Family’, but the stage was used by ‘dissident’ Congress leaders to send out a strong message to Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. The group of 23 senior Congressman has been unofficially referred to as the ‘G-23’ faction.
On Saturday, Jammu city became the battleground of Congress party’s internal politics as ‘G-23’ faction led by party veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad assembled to showcase their strength to the party high command.
Apart from Ghulam Nabi Azad, former union ministers Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha and senior Congress leader Raj Babbar addressed a rally in Jammu.
The rally was organised by the NGO, ‘Gandhi Global Family’. Ghulam Nabi Azad is the president of this NGO.
A large number of people, mostly supporters of Ghulam Nabi Azad, attended the rally in Jammu.
Without mincing any words, the group of Congress ‘dissenters’ fired salvo after salvo at the party high command.
Although the disgruntled leaders did not name the Gandhis directly, a stern message was sent out to them that they need to introspect over the party’s present state.
Congress leaders (L-R) Jitin Prasada, Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Anand Sharma at the ‘Shanti Sammelan’ event in Jammu on Saturday (Photo Credits: PTI)
Expressing solidarity with former J&K Chief Minister and ex-leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, the ‘G-23’ leaders raised questions over the treatment meted out to the former J&K chief minister and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
“We were deeply saddened when we came to know that Azad was being freed from parliament. We did not want him to retire. I do not know why the party is not utilising experience of Ghulam Nabi Azad,” Kapil Sibal said at the rally.
“The Congress has weakened a lot. Let us accept this. We have to strengthen the party together,” Kapil Sibal added.
And Kapil Sibal was not the only one, others also spoke in sync.
“People call us G-23. But, let me tell them, we are Gandhi-23. We believe in the philosophy of Gandhi Ji. Our aim is to strengthen the party,” Raj Babbar said at the rally.
Former union minister Anand Sharma too expressed displeasure over the way Ghulam Nabi Azad has been treated by the Congress in the recent past.
“We have come here to send out a message that we are with Azad. Let people not remain in any kind of confusion. Azad has not retired. He was not working as a government employee. Ghulam Nabi Azad knows the pulse of every state of the country,” Anand Sharma said.
On the other hand, Ghulam Nabi Azad in his address made it clear that he may have retired from Parliament, but not from politics.
While the divide within the Congress party came out in the open on Saturday, all of this started when the group of 23 leaders shot off a letter to the interim President of the party Sonia Gandhi last year seeking complete overhaul of the Congress. The letter had created a massive controversy and triggered an internal battle within the Congress.
Recently, PM Modi, while taking jibe at the Congress, called the party ‘dissenters’ as ‘G-23’. So, what led to the latest outburst of the ‘G-23’ faction against the party high command?
1) Congress high command’s no inclination to renominate Azad to the upper house of Parliament
2) Party chose Mallikarjun Kharge, a Rahul Gandhi loyalist instead of Anand Sharma for Leader of Opposition post in the Rajya Sabha
3) Rahul Gandhi’s recent controversial ‘North-South’ remarks
4) The pending decisions on new party president and other organisational matters
5) Sidelining of ‘G-23’ leaders in the party after the letter controversy
6) Azad’s experience not being used to forge alliances, negotiate seat-sharing agreements in the four states and one UT which are going to the polls
Congress faces uphill task to revive itself
As the internal Congress battle intensifies, the question on everyone’s mind is- what next for the grand old party? Can the Congress high command afford to take disciplinary action against the ‘G-23’ faction?
Although the party has not announced any such measure yet, but the Congress has expressed disappointment at their outburst.
“They (G-23) are an integral part of the Congress family. We respect them. But it would have been better if they helped the party in the five states which are going to the polls,” spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told media persons in Delhi after ‘G-23’ group’s Jammu rally on Saturday.
The coming days and months are going to be very critical for the Congress. The party not only faces an uphill task to revive itself, but also to pacify its disgruntled leaders.
Gandhi family also has its task cut out. They first need to set their party’s house in order and then, also take a decision on the new leadership of the Congress.
If the Congress party faces defeat in the forthcoming assembly polls, it would further embolden the ‘G-23’ faction who will then intensify its demand for a complete revamp of the party.