The exit of senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Congress party marks the fall of another strong pillar of the Grand Old Party. True to his name, he made himself ‘azaad’(free) from the party with which he had been associated for 49 long years.
While resigning from the primary membership and all other posts of the party, Azad wrote a five-page stinging, no-holds-barred, letter to the party interim president Sonia Gandhi, and told her in plain words that her son Rahul was ‘immature’, ‘childish’ and ‘surrounded by inexperienced sycophants’.
Describing Rahul Gandhi’s behaviour as ‘childish’, Azad wrote: “...unfortunately after the entry of Shri Rahul Gandhi into politics, and particularly after January 2013, when he was appointed as Vice President by you, the entire consultative mechanism which existed earlier was demolished by him. All senior and experienced leaders were sidelined and a new coterie of inexperienced sycophants started running the affairs of the Party.”
“One of the most glaring examples of this immaturity was the tearing up of a government ordinance in the full glare of the media by Shri Rahul Gandhi. The said ordinance was incubated in the Congress Core Group and subsequently unanimously approved by the Union Cabinet presided over by the Prime Minister of India and duly approved even by the President of India. ‘This childish’ behaviour completely subverted the authority of the Prime Minister and Government of India. This one single action more than anything else contributed significantly to the defeat of the UPA Government in 2014 which was at the receiving end of a campaign of calumny and insinuation from a combination of the forces of the right-wing and certain unscrupulous corporate interests. “
Rubbing salt into the wounds on the party’s electoral debacles, Azad wrote: “Under your stewardship since 2014 and subsequently that of Shri Rahul Gandhi, the INC has lost two Lok Sabha elections in a humiliating manner. It has lost 39 out of the 49 assembly elections held between 2014-2022. The Party only won four state elections and was able to get into a coalition situation in six instances. Unfortunately, today, the INC is ruling in only two states and is a very marginal coalition partner in two other states.”
Azad pointed out to Sonia Gandhi how Rahul Gandhi and his ‘coterie of sycophants’ were hounding old timers in the party. He wrote: “Since the 2019 elections, the situation in the party has only worsened. After Sh. Rahul Gandhi stepped down in a huff and not before insulting all the senior Party functionaries who have given their lives to the party, in a meeting of the extended Working Committee, you took over as interim President. A position that you continue to hold even today for the past three years.”
He wrote how Rahul’s coterie is running the Congress through remote control and decisions are being taken by his PAs and security guards. Azad wrote: “ Worse still, the ‘remote control model’ that demolished the institutional integrity of the UPA government now got applied to the Indian National Congress. While you are just a nominal figurehead, all the important decision were being taken by Shri Rahul Gandhi or rather worse, his security guards and PAs. “
The senior Congress leader mentioned how he and his colleagues in the Group of 23 were targeted and vilified by the coterie around Rahul Gandhi. Azad wrote: “In the August of 2020, when I and 22 other senior colleagues, including former Union Ministers and Chief ministers wrote to you to flag the abysmal drift in the Party, coterie chose to unleash its sycophants on us and got us attacked, villified and humiliated in the most crude manner possible. In fact on the directions of the coterie that runs the AICC today my mock funeral procession was taken out in Jammu. Those who committed this indiscipline were feted in Delhi by the General Secretaries of the AICC and Shri Rahul Gandhi personally. Subsequently, the same coterie unleashed its goondas to physically attack the residence of a former Ministerial Colleague Sh. Kapil Sibal , who incidentally was defending you and your kin in the courts of law for your alleged attacks of omission and commission.”
“ The only crime committed by the 23 senior leaders who wrote that letter out of concern for the Party is that they pointed out both the reasons for the weaknesses in the Party and the remedies thereof. Unfortunately, instead of taking those views on board in a constructive and cooperative manner, we were abused, humiliated, insulted and vilified in a specially summoned meeting of the extended CWC meeting.”, Azad wrote.
Describing the current election process in the Congress as a ‘farce’, Azad wrote: “Unfortunately, the situation in the Congress party has reached such a point of no return that now proxies are being propped up to take over the leadership of the Party. This experiment is doomed to fail because the Party has been so comprehensively destroyed that the situation has become irretrievable. Moreover, the chosen one would be nothing more than a puppet on a string. “
Describing Rahul Gandhi as ‘a non-serious individual’, Azad wrote: “ Unfortunately, at the national level we have conceded the political space available to us to the BJP and state-level space to regional parties. This all happened because the leadership in the past 08 years has tried to foist a non-serious individual at the helm of the Party. The entire organisational election process is a farce and a sham. At no place anywhere in the country have elections been held at any level of the organisation.”
“ Handpicked lieutenants of the AICC have been coerced to sgn on lists prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC sitting at 24 Akbar Road. At no place in a booth, block, district or state was an electoral roll published, nominations invited, scrutinized, polling booths set up and elections held. The AICC leadership is squarely responsible for perpetrating a giant fraud on the party to perpetuate its hold on the ruins of what once was a national movement that ought for and attained the Independence of India. Does the Indian National Congress deserve this in the 75th year of India’s independence is a question that the AICC leadership must ask itself.”
The letter, in a nutshell, exposes the abysmal levels to which the Congress party has descended. For the first time, a senior Congress leader, while resigning, has exposed the working of the Gandhi family. The letter seems to be a detailed report about the diseases that have afflicted the party. Since the allegations made were serious, Rahul Gandhi and his social media team immediately attacked Azad within minutes of this letter appearing in public domain. From Jairam Ramesh to Ashok Gehlot and Ajay Maken, Bhupesh Baghel to Pawan Khera, every pro-establishment leader in the Congress attacked Azad describing him as a power seeker, traitor and ungrateful man. On the contrary, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah advised the Congress leaders to introspect why a loyal leader like Azad had to resign. “Do not consider Azad a small fry, try to persuade him to return, and if the exodus of leaders continues, Congress will cease to exist”, Farooq Abdullah said.
Congress leaders remained unfazed. Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “A man who has been treated with the greatest respect by the Congress leadership has betrayed it by his vicious personal attacks which reveals his true character. GNA’s DNA has been modi-fied.”
Presently, Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi are abroad, but the reactions from Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh chief ministers and other Congress leaders make it quite clear that the party leadership is in no mood to persuade Azad. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Ghulam Nabi Azad in Rajya Sabha during the farewell speech, and became emotional, Congress leaders pounced upon Azad alleging that he was an “agent of BJP”. The party refused to give him nomination for Rajya Sabha, and instead, sent Imran Pratapgarhi to the Upper House. Modi had praised Azad as a capable chief minister, but Rahul Gandhi and his coterie did not like this praise from Modi.
Congress leaders should understand why Farooq Abdullah praised Azad on Friday. Farooq Abdullah respects Azad though they both belong to different parties. Azad was 24 years old when he joined Congress. Today he is 73. He almost spent his entire life in the service of Congress party. Rising from the post of block president to the post of Indian Youth Congress Chief to senior positions in Congress Working Committee and government, Azad had been a troubleshooter for the party leadership. He was the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha. He deserved these positions because of his vast administrative and political experience.
The manner in which pro-establishment Congress leaders reacted substantiates the allegations made by Azad in his letter to Sonia Gandhi. The party leaders are unwilling to think about the core issues that Azad and his colleagues in Group of 23 had raised. Instead, they questioned the timing of his resignation, at a time when Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka have gone abroad. They tried to link Azad’s connections with Narendra Modi, doubted his intentions and alleged that he was part of a conspiracy hatched by the BJP.
Some alleged that Azad was repaying his debts for Modi’s tears, some pointed out how Modi government gave him the Padma Vibhushan and allowed Azad to continue to stay in his government bungalow. For Azad, such allegations are petty and beneath his dignity to react. This shows the petty thinking of some Congress leaders. Some of them said that Azad should not have resigned at a time when the Gandhi family had gone abroad for Sonia’s treatment.
My opinion is that the biggest strength of Congress party had been the presence of experienced leaders in the organisation. Leaders like Azad, through the years, have seen many governments rise and fall. If the Congress is really serious to pose a challenge to Narendra Modi, it badly needs leaders with experience and acumen. Ghulam Nabi Azad gave 49 years of his life in the service of Congress. He mentioned this in detail in his five-page letter to Sonia Gandhi.
From Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi to Dr Manmohan Singh, he had been a minister in all the Congress governments at the Centre. There was never any charge of corruption against him. To say that he is an ungrateful man and the party does not need his service anymore, smacks of immaturity. Congress, at this moment of existential crisis, should keep its flock of old timers and young leaders together. If Congress refuses to realize the contribution of Ghulam Nabi Azad, and unwilling to give him respect, I can only say, that it is the party’s misfortune.
The loss of Azad for Congress at the national level will be realized at the right time. Already, Azad has indicated that he would float a party in Jammu and Kashmir, and five Congress MLAs in that state resigned on Friday to join his camp. In the 2014 elections in J&K, Congress had won 12 seats, out of which three seats have now gone to the union territory of Ladakh. Out of the nine Congress MLAs, three have already left the party, and out of the remaining six, five left on Friday. The lone MLA left is the one who was made the J&K Congress chief by Rahul Gandhi a few days ago.
Azad is the only leader from the Valley who has influence in the Jammu region which accounts for 12 assembly seats. Ghulam Nabi Azad is a true Kashmiri, and he is known for his honesty and humane behaviour. My acquaintance with Azad had been since the time when he was Indian Youth Congress president. He has the ‘true Congress blood’ running in his veins. He had been a soldier of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. I could never dream that he would ever leave Congress because I knew him closely over the last several decades.
He never uttered a word against the Congress leadership throughout his life, but after I read his resignation letter on Friday, I was reminded of the Urdu couplet: “Kuch Toh Majbooriyan Rahi Hongi, Yoon Hi Koi Bewafaa Nahin Hota”. Azad’s exit will cause a huge loss to Congress in Jammu and Kashmir.
When he became the chief minister, he changed the work culture in Kashmir, and started work on several developmental projects. People in the Valley and Jammu region remember his work even today. They respect Azad Saheb. Elections are due in Kashmir, and Azad can change several political equations in the state. In the situation that prevails today, Azad can become the face of the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.
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