Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi was attacked by the BJP for his “north-south” remark but he also faced surprise criticism from within his party with the ‘G-23’ dissenters waiting for the right time to attack him and it came after his speech in Kerala.
The Congress dissenters defended the party but left Rahul Gandhi undefended with the rider that Rahul could clarify it himself as evidenced by party leaders Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal’s “clarification” jibe.
The ‘G-23’ group met at senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s residence at South Avenue Lane including Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Anand Sharma and sources say some were contacted through phone.
The dissenters are unset since their letter became public in August and the issues were not resolved and the group is unhappy over rise of people close to Rahul Gandhi including K.C. Venugopal and Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The overlooking of Anand Sharma for the post of Leader of Opposition and denying another Rajya Sabha term to Azad have irked them while leaders like Manish Tewari and Sandeep Dikshit are also feeling sidelined in the party set-up. Sources say the internal war is far from over as Rahul Gandhi is placing people close to him in key posts and the seniors are overlooked.
This is the reason Congress leaders, specially members of ‘G-23’ who have written to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi for sweeping reforms in the party, have reportedly said that it is up to former party president Rahul Gandhi to clarify his statement allegedly comparing “north vs south”.
Anand Sharma told the media that the Congress had great leaders from the north and the party is grateful to the people of Amethi for electing Congress leaders such as Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Satish Sharma, and Rahul Gandhi.
Sharma who is deputy leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha said, “Congress never believes in dividing the country on region and religion and does not disrespect any region. Rahul Gandhi had made certain observations, perhaps shared his personal experiences, but in what context he made that observation, only he can clarify so that there is no conjecture or misunderstanding.”
Sibal said it is the BJP which is dividing the country but “what Rahul Gandhi had said he can explain in what context he made the statement.” He also said the voters should be respected whether from any region and their wisdom should not be questioned.
But leaders close to Rahul Gandhi have defended him. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera addressing the media said, “the observation of Rahul Gandhi is for the kind of political culture the BJP has developed.” He rejected the statement of Sibal and said he did not listen to the whole speech.
The Congress launched a counter attack on Wednesday on the ruling BJP after the latter attacked Rahul Gandhi.
Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “Rahul Gandhi has given a clarion call to the people of India to question the governments of the day, whether in the states or at the Centre on issues paramount to the people and to ignore the superficial ‘Toolkit’ story being sold by the BJP day in and day out.”
On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi had said in Thiruvananthapuram: “For the first 15 years, I was an MP from the north. I had got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was very refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in issues.”