New Delhi: Days after Congress dumped veteran parliamentarian Ghulam Nabi Azad, there is a considerable section in the grand old party which says Azad is ‘indispensable’ for the revival of the Congress, which has ‘weakened’ under Sonia-Rahul Gandhi duo.
“Now, what is the real role of Ghulam Nabi Azad… we need an experienced pilot to fly a plane and an engineer to fix any technical snag. Azad is an experienced pilot and an engineer too,” said Kapil Sibal, a former Union Minister and often described as a trusted aide of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
The Congress dissidents’ event at Jammu on Saturday, Feb 27, is also seen as a stage setting for ‘revolt’ against the Congress leadership though the rebel leaders deny any such possibility.
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, former Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari, former Uttar Pradesh Congress chief and actor Raj Babbar, and head of the party’s legal and human rights cell Vivek Tankha reached Jammu providing the much-needed support to Azad.
The Congress leadership replaced Azad, a Muslim and a former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, as Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha earlier this month. The Congress leadership has brought in Mallikarjun Kharge in Azad’splace perhaps trying to give some message to Dalits.
Meanwhile, the ‘Congress dissenters’ – who were part of the so called ‘Group of 23’ have said that they all landed in Jammu in response to an invite from an NGO, the Gandhi Global Family Foundation.
“We are in the Congress and all our efforts are aimed at strengthening the Congress,” said one of the leaders who landed there.
The G-23 leaders of Congress had written an open letter to party president Sonia Gandhi last year demanding sweeping changes in the Congress. Speaking at the event at Jammu, Sibal said: “This is an occasion and podium to speak the truth and the truth is that Congress is getting weak and therefore we have assembled here to make it strong together”.
Sibal, also a Rajya Sabha member, did not mind disapproving the manner Azad had been virtually sending on forced retirement. “….when we realized that Azad is being freed from Parliament we felt sad. We never wanted him to be freed from parliament”.
Making his missive and the spirit of the same crystal clear, Sibal further said: Gulam Nabi Azad knows the reality of the Congress in every state and district.
Ironically, the meet at Jammu has been ceremoniously called Shanti Sammelan.
It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an emotional speech and his voice got choked when he lauded Azad’s Parliamentary contribution and more specifically his stint as the Chief Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ghulam Nabi Azad was furious last monsoon when he heard that Rahul Gandhi had said the letter from 23 Congress leaders on his ‘performance’ was the handiwork of the BJP. Azad had offered to quit. Much to the embarrassment of Sonia Gandhi and something ‘exposed’ Rahul Gandhi, the 23 Congress leaders had sought a complete overhaul of the Congress party.
In his speech at the Jammu event on Feb 27, Azad said:“We are not against anyone or any leader. We are working for the Congress and to strengthen it. There are many who are trying to divide the nation. We are looking to develop the nation”.
“In the last five-six years, all these friends (party leaders) did not speak any less than me in the Parliament over Jammu and Kashmir, its unemployment, stripping off of statehood, finishing off industries and education, implementation of GST,” he said.