Ghulam Nabi Azad Quits Congress, 8 J&K Leaders Resign In Support
More leaders, perceived to be close to Ghulam Nabi Azad, are also contemplating to exit Congress.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday ended his five-decade association with the party, terming it “comprehensively destroyed” and lashing out at Rahul Gandhi for “demolishing” its entire consultative mechanism.
The Congress, dealing with the fallout of a series of high profile exits, including that of Kapil Sibal and Ashwani Kumar, attempted to deflect the latest blow by alleging that Azad’s DNA had been 'Modi-fied' and linking his resignation to the end of his Rajya Sabha tenure.
Hours after Azad's exit from the Congress, eight senior party leaders including three former ministers resigned the party's primary membership, with sources indicating they may form a new party soon.
More leaders, perceived to be close to Azad, are contemplating to resign, the sources said.
Former ministers RS Chib, GM Saroori and Abdul Rashid; former MLAs Mohammad Amin Bhat, Gulzar Ahmad Wani and Choudhary Mohammad Akram; former MLC Naresh Gupta and party leader Salman Nizami have resigned in Azad's support, sources said.
Laying bare the many schisms in the party, Azad wrote a five-page no holds barred letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, describing her as a “nominal figurehead” and alleging that all important decisions are being taken by Rahul Gandhi or rather worse “his security guards and PAs". Azad, whose resignation from all positions in the party, including its primary membership, comes ahead of crucial organisational elections, accused the leadership of committing a “giant fraud' on the party in the name of 'farce and sham' internal polls. He said no such exercise had taken place at any level and lists are being prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC.
In his scathing criticism of the leadership, particularly Rahul Gandhi, the 73-year-old termed the former Congress chief a "non-serious individual at the helm". Proxies, Azad wrote to Sonia Gandhi, are being propped to take over the leadership and they will be nothing more than "a puppet on a string".
Azad has been almost a constant in the party's decision-making processes through the decades -- the Sanjay Gandhi days and the tumultuous Emergency years under Indira Gandhi, the Rajiv Gandhi era, the Narasimha Rao period and eventually the tenure of Congress' longest serving president Sonia Gandhi who he addressed his blistering missive to.
A member of the G-23 group that sought change in the Congress, he told her the party had "lost both the will and ability under the tutelage of the coterie" running the affairs of the party to fight for what is right for India.
A "remote control model" had demolished the institutional integrity of the UPA government and now the Congress party, the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister alleged in the often emotive, angry letter detailing his grievances.
"Unfortunately, after the entry of 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," Azad wrote.
"All senior and experienced leaders were sidelined and the new coterie of inexperienced sycophants started running the affairs of the party," he alleged.
Azad said the Congress at the national level has conceded political space available to the BJP and state level space to regional parties. "This all happened because the leadership in the past eight years has tried to foist a non-serious individual at the helm of the party," he alleged.
"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 fought for and attained the Independence of India," Azad lashed out.
"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." In fact, before starting the Bharat Jodo Yatra -- the party’s ambitious campaign across 12 states -- the leadership should undertake a "Congress jodo" exercise across the country, he said.
"Unfortunately, the situation in the Congress 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," he said.
Azad also dwelt on the Congress’ electoral debacles.
Under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership since 2014 and subsequently that of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress lost two Lok Sabha elections in a “humiliating manner” and 39 of the 49 assembly elections held between 2014 and 2022, Azad wrote.
"Since the 2019 elections the situation in the party has only worsened. After 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 have continued to hold even today for the past three years,” he went on to say.
The former Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha also brought up the incident of Rahul Gandhi tearing an ordinance before the media during UPA rule.
"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 significantly to the defeat of the UPA government in 2014...," he claimed.
Referring to the letter written by him and 22 other leaders in August 2020 to flag the "abysmal drift" in the party, he said "the coterie chose to unleash its sycophants on us and got us attacked, vilified and humiliated in the most crude manner possible".
Chib, one of the eight leaders who followed Azad in his exit from Congress, quoted the party's shrinking foothold in J&K in his letter of resignation,
"Over the years as a member of the Congress Party, it has been my sincere endeavour to work for the betterment of my State - Jammu & Kashmir. I feel that in the prevailing circumstances, the Congress Party has lost its momentum in contributing towards the future of my State.
"Keeping in view the turmoil that the State of J&K has witnessed over the past decades, the people require a decisive leader like Azad to guide them towards a better future. I feel that the Congress Party has not been able to play the role that is expected of it," Chib said in his resignation letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Saroori, a former vice president of J&K unit of Congress, along with several other leaders met Azad in Delhi before submitting their resignation from the party, the sources said.
"Azad is a popular leader who served Congress for the last 50 years. He is a known face across the country for his contribution towards national building," Saroori told reporters after holding a meeting with Azad at his Delhi residence.
Earlier, Saroori uploaded a joint resignation letter on his social media account, announcing Rashid, Bhat, Wani and Akram were quitting the party.
"He cannot stay out of politics...his services are needed in J&K and we are sure that he will be the next chief minister of the state (UT). People of J&K also love their leaders and are ready to give any sacrifice for him," Saroori said, dropping enough hints that Azad is likely to float his own party.
Most of the Congress leaders, who are seen to be loyal to Azad, have already reached New Delhi and are camping there.
The sources indicated the veteran Congress leader is likely to float a new party next month as the union territory prepares for the first Assembly elections since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
The sources said former deputy chief minister Tara Chand, former MP Jugal Kishore Sharma and Muneer Ahmad Mir from Kupwara are also mulling to resign from the Congress.
The leaders are also considered close confidants of Azad, the sources said.
"We, the senior party leaders, are holding a meeting in the aftermath of the new developments. We will be meeting Azad sahib as well," Chand said.
In its counterpunch, the Congress said the contents of Azad’s letter were 'not factual' and its timing 'awful', coming when the entire party organisation was engaged in combating the BJP on key issues like price rise and polarisation.
“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,” Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh tweeted, adding that "GNA's DNA has been Modi-fied".
Hitting out at his former colleague, the party’s media department head Pawan Khera added that Azad became restless as soon his Rajya Sabha term got over. “He can’t stay without post even for a second,” Khera said.
"We have seen the love between Narendra Modi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, it was also seen in Parliament. That love has been manifested in this letter," he said.
Asked about Rahul Gandhi tearing the ordinance brought by his party, Khera said Azad did not speak out then as he was holding a post.
"If you think it was wrong, you would have thought it to be wrong then also, why were you silent then. That means you are selfish, your mouth gets shut before a post. Now you don't have a post and therefore you are speaking," Khera said.
Congress sources also rejected Azad's reported criticism that he was not properly consulted before a rejig of the Jammu and Kashmir's Congress unit.
Azad participated in four meetings at the party's 15 GRG 'war room' on Kashmir unit rejig with the last one being on July 14, sources said.