New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad, quit all positions in the Congress party on Friday, including the primary membership.
Merely weeks before Azad had resigned as the head of the newly-formed campaign committee in the Jammu and Kashmir Congress.
Azad is the second member of the Congress’ dissident G-23 group to leave the party after former Union Minister Kapil Sibal quit earlier this year.
In a five-page letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi, Azad said the situation in the party had changed after the entry of Sonia’s son, MP and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
He said Sonia’s success as Congress chief depended on her ability to “heed counsel”, but her son demolished that “consultative mechanism”.
He wrote to Sonia: “While undoubtedly as the President of the Indian National Congress you played a sterling role in the formation of both the UPA-1 and UPA-2 governments. However, one of the major reasons for this success was that as president, you heeded the wise counsel of senior leaders (sic).”
He added: “However, since the entry of Sh. 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.”
He further recounted how his committee’s action plan to revitalise the Congress — proposed and approved in the Jaipur Plenary of 2013 — was “lying in the storeroom of AICC” for nine years, even after repeated reminders to both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to implement the plan.
Azad said after Rahul Gandhi quit as president in a “huff’ in 2019, a “remote control model” similar to that of the UPA governments was applied to the Congress.
“While you are just a nominal figurehead all the important decisions are being taken by Sh. Rahul Gandhi, or rather worse, his security guards and PAs,” Azad said.
Azad said he was hurt the way “sycophants” were unleashed on senior leaders of the G-23 – the dissident group that had been vocal about changes in the leadership of the party.
He recounted the incidents of a mock funeral of his in Kashmir and the attack on Kapil Sibal’s house by Congress workers.
Azad pointed out that this was at a time when Sibal was representing the Gandhi family and his Congress colleagues in court.
Referring to the impending Congress president elections, he said that “proxies” were now being propped up to take over the leadership of the party.
“The entire organisational election process is a farce and a scam,” he concluded.
Azad’s recent history with Congress
In the recent past, the veteran leader has had a hot-and-cold relationship with the Gandhi family and the Congress leadership.
He was overlooked by the party high command for renomination in the Rajya Sabha after his tenure ended in 2021. Azad was the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House.
He was then made a part of Sonia Gandhi’s advisory committee. He also participated in the party’s brainstorming session — the Chintan Shivir — in Udaipur held in May.
Rumours that Azad would quit the party have abounded since 2021 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi bade him a tearful farewell at the floor of the Rajya Sabha.
Thereafter, he was conferred the Padma Bhushan by the BJP-led central government earlier this year.
At that time, Azad had come under criticism from his party colleagues, including present General Secretary in-charge of Communications, Jairam Ramesh.
However, some reconciliation with the G-23 was evident when Sonia Gandhi reached out to these leaders and tried to pacify them. Several dissidents made peace with the Gandhis, but some like Azad, Manish Tewari and Anand Sharma continued to make their disagreement felt. With Azad gone, the group is now left with only a few men standing.
Also read: ‘Decision-making influenced by sycophants’: Jaiveer Shergill resigns as Congress spokesperson