The rift in the Congress between the dissenting leaders (G-23) and Rahul Gandhi is out in the open after the solidarity show of Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu. Observers say that the party is at crossroads and will have to make the choice — either pacify the dissenters or decide to go ahead without them.
The level of confrontation, particularly after Azad’s Saturday show, indicates that the path for Rahul Gandhi is getting tougher within the party apparatus.
Sources say that dissenters are planning a public meeting in Kurukshetra after the Jammu event and hold meetings at non-political platforms across the country to galvanise support from the Congress workers and leaders.
While the Congress dissenters have taken a path of confrontation, it would be tough to stop more people from joining them as they plan to organise more such meetings.The clear indication is that it is open revolt against Rahul Gandhi, said sources
Sources within the camp also said that after the 2019 General Elections the leaders did whatever they were asked to do but in the Bihar elections they were ignored and not invited in campaiging or the consultation process.
Anand Sharma, who is most vocal among the dissenters had said that they are “not tenants but co-owners” of the party and many in the camp insist they are not going to leave the party.
He added that most of the leaders have covered a very long distance to reach where we are today. “Nobody among us has come through the window, all of us have walked through the door.”
But the Congress is not in a hurry and is moving cautiously to choose an option to pacify these leaders, and seem to have made a step towards the problem with the party senior spokesperson calling them ‘respected’. The dissenters chose to show their strength on the day when Rahul Gandhi was campaigning in Tamil Nadu.
The Congress, while hailing the contribution of the leaders, added riders saying that they should work in the elections in the five states. But sources within the dissenting camp said that they are being ignored continuously in the decision making process and no deliberation and consensus is being attempted in the party before proceeding for any key decision.
Azad, who has been General Secretary of the party for three decades, has been left out in the decision making process as team Rahul has taken over in key negotiations.
The Congress has pitched in Abhishek Manu Singhvi to pacify the leaders and also give a message. He said, “I would, therefore, and by very very gently and respectfully say that the best contribution to the Congress cause is to be active not in among ourselves but to be active on various ‘abhiyans’ of the party in the ongoing elections in the five states, and in the light of what I have said, I don’t want to intend to answer those questions which will sensationalise the issue intended to digress from the core issue.”
In solidarity with the former Leader of Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, the dissenters, including Kapil Sibal, Raj Babbar, Manish Tewari were in Jammu and chose to attack the party, and said they are saddened with the weakening of the party.
Anand Sharma attacked those who have been critical of them. He said, “I have not given anyone the right to tell me if we are the people of the Congress or not, no one has that right and we will build the party, we will strengthen it and believe in the strength and unity of Congress.”
The Congress, which is facing tough times due to electoral defeats, now has to fight the party internally also. After Rahul Gandhi was attacked by the BJP for his “north-south” remark he faced surprise criticism from within his party with the ‘G-23’ dissenters waiting for the right time to attack him.
The Congress dissenters defended the party but left Rahul Gandhi undefended with the rider that Rahul could clarify himself, as shown by party leaders Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal’s “clarification” jibe.
The dissenters have been upset since their letter became public in August and the issues were never resolved. The group is unhappy over the 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 the Congress leaders, specially members of ‘G-23’, who have written to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi for sweeping reforms in the party, are upset over the delayed decisions in the party and not holding elections from the block to CWC level within the party. The Congress has decided to hold elections in the party in May June this year.