Updated: February 27, 2021 10:31:06 pm
Congress has weakened considerably in the last decade and effort needs to be put in to ensure it has a connect with a new generation of leaders, said some of the ‘Group of 23’ or ‘G-23 leaders’ of the party at an event in Jammu on Saturday. Last year, the G-23 dissenters had severely criticised the functioning of the party in an open letter to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi.
At the event titled ‘Shanti Sammelan, aimed at reconnecting with the cadre on the ground, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said he was saddened by the decision to allow party veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad to retire from Parliament and that the Congress could have used his experience better.
“He (Azad) is one such leader who knows the ground reality of Congress in every district of every state. We were saddened when we realised that he is being freed from Parliament. We didn’t want him to go from Parliament…I can’t understand why Congress is not using his experience,” he said.
“What is the real role of Ghulam Nabi Azad sahab? A person who flies an aircraft is an experienced person. An engineer accompanies him to detect and repair any malfunctioning in the engine. Ghulam Nabi ji is experienced as well as engineer.”
The Congress leader said he and his colleagues have gathered in Jammu to address issues that the party is facing now. “The truth is that we see Congress party getting weak. That is why we have gathered here. We had gathered together earlier too and we have to strengthen the party together,” he said.
Sibal recently distanced himself from Rahul Gandhi’s ‘north-south’ remark, saying, “I’m nobody to comment on what he said. He said it and he can explain in what context he said…We must respect electors in the country and not denigrate their wisdom…”
Apart from Azad and Sibal, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Hooda and Raj Babbar were also present on the occasion.
Anand Sharma said that for the first time since the 1950s, Jammu and Kashmir does not have a representative in the Rajya Sabha and it will be “corrected” soon.
Echoing Sibal, he said, “Congress has weakened in the last decade. Our voice is for the betterment of the party. It should be strengthened everywhere once again. New generation should connect (to party). We’ve seen good days of Congress. We don’t want to see it weakening as we become older. We will save the Congress.”
Congress has weakened in the last decade. Our voice is for the betterment of the party. It should be strengthened everywhere once again. New generation should connect (to party). We’ve seen good days of Congress. We don’t want to see it weakening as we become older: Anand Sharma pic.twitter.com/crqX5eEzK4
— ANI (@ANI) February 27, 2021
He continued, “I have not given anyone the right to tell me if we are people of Congress or not. Nobody has that right. We will build the party. We will strengthen it. We believe in the strength and unity of Congress.”
He added, “All of us have covered a very long distance to reach where we are today. Nobody among us has come through the window, all of us have walked through the door. We have come through the students’ movement and the youth movement.”
Meanwhile, Raj Babbar turned around the G-23 nomenclature and said, “People say we are a part of G-23. For me, it’s Gandhi 23. With the belief, resolve and thinking of Mahatma Gandhi, this nation’s law and Constitution was formed. Congress is standing strongly to take these forward. G-23 want Congress to be strong.”
Speaking on the occasion, Azad said, “I have retired from Rajya Sabha but not from politics. This is not for the first time that I retired from parliament. Till my last breath, I will continue my services for the nation and will continue my fight for the rights of people.”
In an apparent reference to the August 5, 2019 development when the Centre revoked J&K’s special status and split it into two Union Territories, he said, “We have lost our identity but we will not give up and continue our fight for the restoration of the statehood within and outside Parliament. We want representatives of the people of all the three regions of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh — to form the government. Leh supported the UT status but Kargil is against it. Every party in Jammu — from BJP to RSS and National Conference to PDP and Panthers Party — wants statehood back.”
“You need to take everyone along as was done by Congress in the past. The Congress could not have achieved freedom for the country, had it not welcomed everyone from every region, religion and every community including educated people, farmers, traders and labourers, irrespective of their caste and creed,” he said.
He said the Congress learnt from former prime minister Indira Gandhi that border residents are brave people who fight the enemy alongside the forces and need to be given a special attention.
‘Group of 23’ are respectable partymen: Congress
Later on Saturday, Congress said the leaders in the “Group of 23” are respectable partymen in whom it took pride, but advised them to make their “best contribution” and display their “loyalty” to the party by campaigning to strengthen it in the states that are going to polls.
“With the greatest respect on behalf of the Congress party, each person who has gone to Jammu to address a rally is a senior, highly-respected and well-regarded member of our party, we are proud to have them in our party and I believe that they are equally proud to be members of the Congress. They are, therefore, part of the Congress family,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters here.
He added, “Gently and respectfully, I say that the best contribution to the Congress’s cause would be to get active, not in any manner among ourselves, but by participating in the ongoing campaign every day in the five states that are going to polls.”
He said the “true loyalty” of the leaders to the Congress would have been displayed had they campaigned in favour of the grand old party and strengthened it in the poll-bound states, where it is fighting hard.
To a question on the remark made by one of the leaders in Jammu that Azad was “used” by the Congress, Singhvi said the veteran leader has never complained in this regard, adding that those making such remarks are probably not aware of the party’s contemporary as well as old history.
He said Azad has been a Union minister since the times of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and has represented the Congress seven times in Parliament, including five terms in the Rajya Sabha, for a long innings spanning over 40 years.
Besides, he said Azad was made the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and also the general secretary of the party for 20-25 years, exercising supervision on the Congress’s rank and file in over 20 states.
Singhvi refused to answer further questions on the issue of internal discipline as the Congress leaders have gone public with their criticism of the party for the first time.
[With inputs from PTI]
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