In a jolt to the Congress, seasoned politician Ghulam Nabi Azad today resigned from its primary membership, severing his half-a-century-old association with the grand old party.
In a hard-hitting five-page letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he squarely blamed her son and senior leader Rahul Gandhi for the party’s terminal decline, saying all important decisions were being taken by Rahul or his security guards and PAs while she was just a nominal figurehead.
Azad, who was a minister in successive Congress governments at the Centre and was also the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, observed that after the entry of Rahul into politics and particularly after January 2013 when he was appointed vice-president, the entire consultative mechanism which existed earlier was demolished by him.
”All senior and experienced leaders were sidelines 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 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 the Government of India. This one single action more than anything else contributed to the defeat of the UPA Government in 2014 that 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,” Azad said in the letter.
He said the situation in the party has reached such a point of no return that now proxies were being propped up to take over its leadership. This obviously was in the context of reports that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot could be asked by the Gandhi family to take over the reins of the party.
Azad observed that the entire organisational election process was 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 sign on lists prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC sitting in 24 Akbar Road,” he added.
Mocking at the party’s proposed ”Bharat Jodo Yatra”, he said the Congress should have rather undertaken a ”Congress Jodo” exercise across the country. Azad, however, praised Sonia’s role in the formation of both the UPA-1 and UPA-2 governments. One of the primary reasons for her success, according to him, was that she heeded the wise counsel of senior leaders, besides trusting their judgment and delegating powers to them.
Azad thus join the long list of senior leaders who have quit the Congress since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, including Kapil Sibal, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, R P N Singh, Hardik Patel, Ashwani Kumar, and Sushmita Dev. However, he is the senior-most Congressman to quit the party, having worked with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi.
Azad is one of the ‘G-23’ Congress leaders who were vocal about a leadership change, contending that the party should not be dependent on the Gandhi family for every major decision. Feeling humiliated and sidelined, he had recently quit the J & K campaign committee formed by the Congress chief, citing health reasons. All eyes will now be on other leaders of the ‘G-23’ group who have been feeling suffocated in the Congress, particularly former Union Minister Anand Sharma, who had recently quit the party’s steering committee formed ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.
There was intense speculation in political circles on Azad’s next move since he was one of the tallest leaders of the Congress and stood by the party through thick and thin. In his resignation letter, he said he would now persevere to perpetuate the ideals for which he has dedicated his entire adult life outside the formal fold of Congress.