It is ironic that the so-called harbingers of democracy and advocates of free speech, the Indian National Congress has little tolerance for dissent. Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Nabi Azad has learned this the hard way as his quest for bringing about a change in the INC and promote intra-party democracy has all but ended Azad’s political career.
After the letter row broke out where a section of Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad advocated for elections to the party’s top post, Azad’s political career has nosedived as earlier this month, he was removed as the All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and also discharged from the post of party in-charge of Haryana State.
Recently, during the debate on the Farm bills in Rajya Sabha, Azad said, “This may be my last speech as I do not know when Parliament will run because of COVID-19… five months remain for my term.”
This clearly indicates that Azad has been sidelined in the party and he himself has doubts whether the party will send him once again to Rajya Sabha.
Ghulam Nabi Azad broke the perception of him being a loyal servant of the Gandhi family as he was one of the 23 signatories of the letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi seeking “full time” active leadership, sweeping reforms and elections of the CWC.
“For the last many decades, we do not have elected bodies in the party. Maybe we should have pushed for it 10-15 yrs ago. Now we are losing elections after elections, and if we have to come back we need to strengthen our party by holding elections. If my party wants to be in opposition for the next 50 years, then there is no need for elections within the party,” said Azad in the aftermath of the letter controversy.
The party seems to have taken an exception with Azad’s show of dissent, as fellow dissenter and signatory Mukul Wasnik has been retained as the general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh.
Another signatory, Jitin Prasada has been made AICC in charge of West Bengal.
It seems that the Gandhis have taken Azad’s dissent personally and are out to finish his political career. The Gandhis know that Azad’s years of slavery to the family will make him an unattractive option for the other parties should he choose to leave the INC.
The INC has hardly any presence left in the states and hence has seen its numbers dwindle in the Rajya Sabha. The party is struggling to get its loyalties elected to the upper house of the parliament, case in point being Rajiv Shukla who was forced to withdraw his nomination after vociferous opposition to his candidature from the Gujarat Congress.
With J&K assembly dissolved, the party will struggle to re-elect Azad to the Rajya Sabha. Of course, if the Gandhis intervene, the re-election will be a cakewalk for Azad, but it seems that the Gandhis are determined to dump him for good.