The Congress ‘G-23’ bloc of dissenting leaders said at a public rally in Jammu that the party was weakening by the day and it was their endeavour to strengthen it in national interest. This marked their first collective bid to raise grievances outside the party and position themselves for the coming organisational elections.
With no fig leaf to dismiss the rebel motivations, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi bluntly told the dissenters, who include Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Raj Babbar, Manish Tewari, they better campaign in the election-bound states as this would better reflect their concerns. The party, however, dismissed as “irrelevant” queries about disciplinary action against the rebels, though the Congress brass was the un-named object of criticism.
With former leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad at the centre of a felicitation ceremony in Jammu to mark his return home after retirement from the House, key members of the rebel bloc praised his political skills and lamented Congress had let him retire from Parliament. They demanded he be used in the organisational affairs. Also present were RS MP Vivek Tankha and Haryana strongman Bhupinder Hooda.
Interestingly, given the purported occasion, the official J&K Congress had also welcomed Azad.
However, the stress of the rebels, especially Sibal and Sharma, that Congress is on a slide demonstrated that the G-23 has not given up its aggression after the CWC last month decided that internal polls - a key demand of the grouping - will be held in June. The decision to go public suggested that they are playing for the next round when the party would decide on the nature of internal polls to be held.
The Azad-led bloc has demanded that besides Congress president, polls should be held for CWC as well as the CEC and the Central Parliamentary Board be revived, while the leadership appears ready only for polls for Congress presidency and CWC.
Sibal said, “It is an occasion to speak the truth and the truth is we can all see that Congress is getting weak … that is why we have gathered here ... we have to strengthen the party together.”
Repeating that Congress had “weakened”, Sharma said, “Our voice is for the betterment of the party. It should be strengthened everywhere once again. The new generation should connect (to the party).” He lamented, “We have seen good days of Congress. We do not want to see it weakening as we become older.”
The other focus was the demand that Azad be used in organisational affairs. Sibal, Sharma and Tewari said Azad knew Congress like few do and that they were sad that he was “freed” from Parliament and “we are with Azad”. The regret over Congress weakening and Azad’s retirement sounded like a jibe at the leadership.