Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation from the party’s primary membership and his stinging no holds barred letter to Congress’ interim president, Sonia Gandhi, have posed difficult questions to the party leadership.
The Grand Old Party of India, called the Indian National Congress, is faced with a revolt within. To make it worse is the ostrich-like attitude of its top leadership that refuses to smell the coffee, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation from the party’s primary membership, which he joined in 1977, and his stinging, no holds barred letter to Congress’ interim president, Sonia Gandhi, have posed difficult questions to the party leadership.
Azad, who held ministerial berths in the cabinets of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narsimha Rao, and Dr Manmohan Singh and held key party posts, has left Congress after being ignored by the party that he had served for 45 long years. He was spotted by then Congress president Indira Gandhi, who made him president of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC). He was the first ever Kashmiri youth leader to head the IYC.
Azad’s proximity with Sanjay Gandhi grew as president of the IYC. Sanjay Gandhi wielded enormous clout in the party for being the son of the Congress president, who also happened to be the Prime Minister. After his untimely demise in a plane crash on June 23, 1980, the mantle fell on the elder son, Rajiv Gandhi.
After the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, Rajiv Gandhi became the Congress president and also the Prime Minister. Rajiv Gandhi appointed Azad as the Congress’ powerful General Secretary and charged him with handling Uttar Pradesh. Azad continued to be a loyal soldier of the Gandhis after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991. He became minister for Civil Aviation in PV Narsimha Rao’s cabinet, served as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and held ministerial berths in the UPA-I and UPA-II governments headed by then Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh. He was the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha after the Narendra Modi-led government came to power in 2014.
Azad’s resignation was on the cards ever since senior Congress leaders, called G-23, raised questions about the organisational elections and the way the party was being run. The Congress lost many talented leaders, such as Himanta Biswa Sarma, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is Chief Minister of Assam. Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, the young Turks who were members of Rahul Gandhi’s club, quit the party and joined the BJP. Milind Deora and Sachin Pilot, the other members of Rahul Gandhi’s team, have remained in the party but have been sidelined.
Himanta Biswa Sarma had accused Rahul Gandhi of paying more attention to his pet dog, Piddi, than him. Azad too has made disparaging remarks against Rahul Gandhi for destroying the party.
Ashwani Kumar and Kapil Sibal, two leading legal minds in the Congress and former Law Ministers, have also left the party, citing a lack of clarity and communication from the party leadership. Yesterday, Jaiveer Shergill, a young leader from Punjab, quit the party, citing a lack of communication from Rahul Gandhi.
Former Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar and former chief minister of Punjab, Captain Amrinder Singh, too resigned from the party. Kuldeep Bishnoi, the MLA from Haryana and son of Chaudhary Bhajan Lal, the three-term Haryana chief minister has relinquished his primary membership and joined the BJP.
Azad’s five-page stinging letter to Sonia Gandhi has exposed the vagaries of its leadership that now thrives on sycophancy. Azad even accused Rahul Gandhi of destroying the party’s functioning and its internal consultative process and replacing them with yes-men and sycophants.
He went on to paint Rahul Gandhi as a non-serious leader who was single-handedly responsible for ceding space to the BJP. He castigated the party leadership for trying to foist a non-serious man at the helm, who has been calling the shots within the party and Sonia Gandhi was just a figurehead as interim president. Sycophants around Rahul Gandhi, including his assistants and security guards, were taking crucial decisions.
With Azad quitting from all posts in the Congress, the party has lost its tallest Kashmiri leader who enjoyed pan-India acceptance. It would be pertinent to mention here that Azad had won the Lok Sabha elections twice from the Wasim parliamentary constituency of Maharashtra.
The coterie around Rahul Gandhi, which, according to Azad, has destroyed the Congress, was quick to launch an attack on him. However, party insiders say that Azad’s strongly worded resignation letter has widened the chasm between the G-23 leaders and the party. His scathing attack on the party’s functioning has not gone down well within the party, that too at a time when Congress has announced the launch of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. Though Azad has called it an exercise in futility, as ‘Party Jodo’ was more important at this juncture than this yatra.
Incidentally, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are abroad for treatment. It remains to be seen what the response of the Gandhis will be to the content and language of the letter from their senior leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Azad, for one, has not called it quits as he prepares for another fight. There are murmurs that Azad may try his luck in the Jammu and Kashmir elections and may become Chief Minister with the BJP’s support. In Indian politics, interesting times are ahead as the Congress makes mistake after mistake and loses leaders, while the BJP smiles and watches with interest.