Azad resigns, calls Rahul childish in scathing note

Published on Aug 26, 2022 10:54 PM IST

Former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad quit the Congress on Friday, delivering a scathing indictment of the party’s functioning and holding former chief Rahul Gandhi responsible for demolishing consultative mechanisms and installing an inexperienced and insular coterie to take decisions.

 (PTI)
(PTI)
By, New Delhi

Former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad quit the Congress on Friday, delivering a scathing indictment of the party’s functioning and holding former chief Rahul Gandhi responsible for demolishing consultative mechanisms and installing an inexperienced and insular coterie to take decisions.

Azad, 73, said he was resigning in a five-page letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi, weeks before the Congress is set to elect a new president and undertake a grassroots connect campaign, Bharat Jodo Yatra. In the letter, he also blamed the party for ignoring recommendations made by key panels, targeting leaders who demanded internal reforms, and accused Rahul Gandhi’s associates for vilifying and humiliating him.

He said that Sonia Gandhi was only a nominal figurehead while the important decisions were being taken by Rahul Gandhi — whose demeanour he described as “childish” at one point in the letter and “immature” at another — his private guards and personal secretaries.

“The remote control model that demolished the institutional integrity of the UPA government now got applied to the Indian National Congress. While you (Sonia Gandhi) were just a nominal figurehead, all important decisions were being taken by Rahul Gandhi, or worse, his security guards and PAs,” Azad wrote.

He also criticised the functioning of Rahul Gandhi and said that his “immature” act of publicly tearing a 2013 ordinance that proposed protections for lawmakers accused of crimes “completely subverted the authority of the prime minister and the government of India. This one action more than anything else contributed significantly to the defeat of the UPA government in 2014.”

He called the upcoming organisational poll a sham and a farce, saying it was only meant to install a proxy at the helm.

“The situation in the Congress party has reached such a point of no return that 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,” the letter added.

Azad said that he, along with some other senior leaders, will “preserve the ideals” outside the forms fold of the Congress. He didn’t elaborate what this would be. Hours later, six former Jammu and Kashmir legislators and ministers resigned from the party and backed Azad, saying the party had lost momentum and that they would follow him.

The Congress hit back at Azad, calling the letter unfortunate and questioning the timing of his resignation. “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. GNA’s DNA has been Modi-fied,” Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh tweeted.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who some reports have speculated to be in the running to be the next Congress chief, also condemned the remarks. “I am in a deep shock after reading what he wrote. A person who got everything for last 42 years and never been without any post, today giving such a message, I am unable to understand,” he said.

But some people inside the party publicly backed Azad. “What Ghulam Nabi Azad wrote in his resignation today were exactly the issues we raised before the party. It was extremely disheartening,” former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told reporters.

Azad is the latest in a string of senior leaders to dump the party for reasons of moribund leadership and political and organisational failures. He was among the most senior leaders of the party, having served as Union minister under four prime ministers and as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir between 2002 and 2005. He also worked as the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha between 2014 and 2021.

But his ties with the party leadership took a beating after he became one of group of 23 leaders, informally known as the G23, who wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi in 2020 demanding internal reforms.

Last year, he was denied an extension of his Rajya Sabha berth, fuelling speculation that he was out of favour in the party. Earlier this month, he was appointed to key positions in the Jammu and Kashmir unit but resigned hours later.

In his letter to Sonia Gandhi, he flagged some key issues, saying that the party had ignored major recommendations made by a key panel, of which Azad was a member, ahead of the 2014 elections.

“Unfortunately, the recommendations are lying in a store room of the AICC for the past nine years. In spite of my repeated reminders in person both to you and then vice president Rahul Gandhi from 2013 onwards to implement these recommendations, no effort was made to even examine them seriously,” Azad wrote.

He accused Rahul Gandhi of sidelining senior leaders. “All senior and recognised leaders of the party were sidelined and a new coterie of inexperienced sycophants started running the affairs of the party,” Azad wrote.

He criticised the political performance of the party, pointing out that it was in power in only two states on its own and lost 39 of the 49 state polls in the last eight years, besides two general elections.

He alleged that members of the G23 were attacked, vilified and humiliated “in the crudest manner possible” by the “coterie”. He said that his mock funeral was taken out in Jammu and the people responsible for this were “feted in Delhi by the general secretaries of the AICC and Rahul Gandhi personally”.

“The only crime committed by the 23 senior leaders who wrote that letter out of concern for the party is that they pointed out the reasons for the weaknesses for the party and the remedies thereof. Unfortunately, instead of taking those views on board in a constructive and cooperative manner, we were abused, humiliated, insulted and vilified in a specially summoned meeting of the extended CWC meeting.”

He said the upcoming organisational polls would change nothing.

“The entire organisational election process is 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 has been coerced to sign on lists prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC sitting in 24 Akbar Road,” he said in the letter.

Azad said that the party had ceded space to the BJP and regional parties.

“At the national level, we have conceded the political space available to us to the BJP and state level space to regional parties. This all happened because the leadership in the past 8 years has tried to foist a non-serious individual at the helm of the party,” he said.

Hitting out at Azad, former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya Singh said, “It might be possible that those who scrapped Article 370 in J&K have now developed a good relation with you. In your letter you spoke about the need of ‘Congress jodo’. Instead, you have indulged in ‘Congress todo’, I condemn it.”

Speaking to HT, another member of the G23, Prithviraj Chavan said, “All we demand is that the party should be run in a democratic manner. Sonia Gandhi led us with dignity but after she stepped down, the consultative decision-making process has stopped. It is a big loss to the party. If the congress elections take place, then the party can again become a vibrant party which can go back to winning ways.”

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot said he was “deeply hurt” after reading Azad’s resignation letter.

Former J&K CM and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah called Azad’s exit “a body blow to the Congress”.

“Long rumoured to be in the offing but a body blow to the Congress none the less. Perhaps the senior most leader to quit the party in recent times, his resignation letter makes for very painful reading. It’s sad, and quite scary, to see the grand old party of India implode,” he tweeted.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who quit the Congress and joined the BJP in 2015, said that there were similarities between Azad and his resignation letters. “Sonia Gandhi is not taking care of the party but only trying to promote her son. It is a futile attempt. Rahul Gandhi is a blessing for the BJP,” Sarma said.

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