After the much-publicised letter by the 23 Congress leaders for changes in high-command, the party might face another revolt very soon, led by none other than Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was one of the 23 leaders who had written to Sonia Gandhi, asking for change.
A few days ago, Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma criticised Rahul Gandhi’s North-South remark. Now Ghulam Nabi Azad has taken six other senior leaders of the party – Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Vivek Tankha, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Manish Tewari, and Bhupinder Hooda – to Jammu, his Karmabhoomi, on a three-day visit. Jammu has played a crucial role in the rise of Ghulam Nabi Azad, and, after the end of the term, he will probably shift back to the city.
As of now, he is on a three-day visit to Jammu and has taken six other senior leaders who are also dissenters of high-command, to the city. This seems like a show of strength by senior Congress leaders to Sonia Gandhi.
Anand Sharma, who was hoping to get nominated as the leader of Rajya Sabha, was dumped by Congress for the family loyalist Mallikarjun Kharge. In the last few days, Sharma has made many statements against the functioning of the party, and also criticised Rahul Gandhi over his North-South statement. After the high-command chose Kharge over him, many senior leaders of the Congress who were part of the rebel group suggested that he should resign from Rajya Sabha, but instead, he chose to restrain by siding with Azad.
Azad, who enjoys a very good rapport with alliance parties like RJD, DMK, and others, is mostly a negotiator on behalf of the party for seat allocation with alliance partners. However, Congress chose Randeep Surjewala as a negotiator with DMK this time instead of Azad despite his good relations with DMK’s senior leaders, and this has miffed the former CM of Jammu and Kashmir.
Showing faith in Surjewala also did not go well with Bhupinder Singh Hooda as both are rivals in Haryana Congress. Previously Surjewala and Kumari Selja, who leads the anti-Hooda faction in Haryana Congress, stopped the attempts by Hooda to instrument the fall of the BJP-JJP alliance government, and Rahul Gandhi chose to side with them instead of Hooda.
Other leaders like Manish Tewari and Kapil Sibal are known for criticising the Congress high-command repeatedly for being ineffective and now have one other point to prove to Sonia Gandhi, and therefore, they decided to visit Jammu under the leadership of Azad.
In the letter by 23 leaders episode, Senior Congress leader Sibal had said, “That is the fundamental thing that should have happened. This is what these 23 people have written. If you find fault with any of what we have written, then, surely, we can be questioned and we should be questioned…But if you don’t talk of substance and talk of either timing or the fact that we wrote, that itself is an example of distancing yourself from the cause. And that has what has happened. Not one request of ours, a concern of ours, reflected in the letter has been sought to be addressed in that meeting. Not one. Yet we are called dissenters,”
He also added, “In the course of the (CWC) meeting we were called traitors and nobody sitting in that meeting including the leadership told them that this is not the kind of language.”
It seems the Congress party is on the brink of collapse. Although the party has suffered many defections earlier, from Mamata Banerjee who formed TMC to Sharad Pawar who came up with NCP in 1999 (and many other smaller ones like YSRCP) and has survived all the former breakups, this time its survival is at stake.
In most of the previous defections except 1999, the popularity of the leaders was limited to one state, and the Congress party suffered a loss in that state only, but this time it is more of an organisational problem instead of that of a single leader. So, it will be interesting to see whether the Gandhi family is able to keep its hold over the grand old party this time.