On Friday, Azad arrived in Jammu on a three-day visit and was received by party workers.(ANI file photo)
On Friday, Azad arrived in Jammu on a three-day visit and was received by party workers.(ANI file photo)

23 Cong letter writers plan drive to ‘save idea of India’

The series of rallies and public meetings will kick off on Saturday in Jammu, where former Rajya Sabha member of Parliament Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the 23, has invited his colleagues.
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 03:58 AM IST

The group of 23 Congress leaders who demanded an overhaul in the 135-year-old party are launching a nationwide campaign to “save the idea of India’’. The series of rallies and public meetings will kick off on Saturday in Jammu, where former Rajya Sabha member of Parliament Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the 23, has invited his colleagues.

According to two people aware of the details, Anand Sharma, Manish Tiwari, Bhupinder Hooda, Vivek Tankha and Kapil Sibal, also among the 23, will join him in Jammu.

“He asked us to be there and so we will all go in a show of solidarity,’’ said one of the 23. The plan is to have two public meetings on Saturday, and another on Sunday. “We are going to have this across the country. After Jammu, we have planned in Ludhiana and Kurukshetra,’’ this person added.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Congress and its local units would be involved in these meetings.

Last August, the 23 leaders wrote a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi in which they called for “full-time and effective leadership”, elections to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), and a mechanism guide the party’s revival. The issues were discussed, but no resolution found, at a fractious Jan 22 meeting of the Congress Working Committee. Subsequent party appointments have seen younger leaders who want Rahul Gandhi back as the party president being given precedence in organisational appointments over some of the signatories.

The ostensible trigger for the public meetings is to honour Azad, a Congress veteran who retired from Parliament after four decades, but it would also appear to be a platform for them to discuss the road ahead. The internal party poll for president has been postponed to after the assembly elections.

“It (the meeting) is part of a larger effort to galvanise all patriotic nationalistic forces to come together and save the idea of India,’’ said the first person. He confirmed that they would also campaign in the upcoming elections, but for the party.

“Our messaging will be to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party, to save India from becoming a majoritarian nation.”

A second signatory said the meetings are also a message to the Congress high command. “We want to tell the party leadership that we are united, we have an issue and they must do something about it,’’ he added on condition of anonymity.

On Friday, Azad arrived in Jammu on a three-day visit and was received by party workers. The Congress will contest the coming assembly elections in four states and a Union territory with its full might, he said in a single-line response to a swarm of media persons outside the party office, to which he was taken after landing, and where he was received by JKPCC president GA Mir, former minister Mula Ram, and other senior leaders.

A Congress leader told HT that it wasn’t an event just for the letter writers. “Our state unit wants to felicitate Mr Azad and an invitation went out to all Congress leaders and so many are attending,’’ he said.

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