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Friday, April 16, 2021

Rift in Congress’s ‘G 23’: Stand by letter, but boundaries shouldn’t be breached: 4 leaders

One of them – former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien – said he was not against efforts to improve the Congress and bring in much-needed reforms but argued that “the boundaries, the Lakshman rekha,” should not be breached.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: March 3, 2021 7:24:46 am
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Narendra Modi, Congress G-23, Sonia Gandhi, Congress party, indian expressJammu: Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad during a 'Shanti Sammelan' event in Jammu, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Four senior Congress leaders, who were among the 23 signatories of the letter sent to party president Sonia Gandhi seeking reforms in the organisation last year, on Tuesday said they stand by their letter but disassociated themselves from the recent actions of some of their colleagues in G 23, as the group of signatories has come to be known as.

One of them – former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien – said he was not against efforts to improve the Congress and bring in much-needed reforms but argued that “the boundaries, the Lakshman rekha,” should not be breached.

Some of the G 23 leaders – Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Raj Babbar and Vivek Tankha – were in Jammu last week in a first such outing by them. They addressed a joint public meeting, where potshots were taken at the party leadership for not utilising an “experienced” leader like Azad and letting him retire from the Rajya Sabha.

A day after, on Saturday, Azad praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi as someone who “does not hide his true self”. And on Monday, Sharma lashed out at the Bengal Congress leadership for the “alliance” with Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front, saying such association flew in the face of the Congress’s core ideology.

Sources said these leaders are planning a similar event in Haryana in the coming weeks.

Talking to The Indian Express, Kurien said, “Their activities are alright to the extent of strengthening the Congress. But it should not become a dissident activity. Certainly, there is a need for improvement in the Congress… and I am not against… if the activities are in that direction. They should proceed keeping that in mind. I don’t know the details of the Jammu event. Only when I get full details can I say whether it was a dissident activity or an effort to strengthen the party.”

“I am not against efforts to strengthen and rectify the Congress. I believe that is needed. But the boundaries, the Lakshman rekha, should be kept in mind. It should not become a dissident activity. As for the comments regarding Bengal, their stand should not help in defeating the Congress… that should be borne in mind….”

Former Lok Sabha MP Sandeep Dikshit said, “There is no group. Twenty-three leaders had signed the letter. Now what they are doing is… these 5-6 must be doing something. I, for example, have no idea. It is not a group. It is just a collection of people who expressed an opinion. We stand by that opinion. What individuals would do or groups within the groups would do or others would do… that is their concern.”

Dikshit said he does not believe Azad praised Modi. “It is best to ask him… I have not been in touch with them.”

Senior Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Ajay Singh said, “The issues which were raised in the letter regarding elections to all forums… on that I am a part of. I have no interest in saying that the Prime Minister is very good. The letter we signed was for internal party democracy of which I still hold that it is right… the rest everybody is entitled to their own opinion…. I have full faith in the leadership of Sonia Gandhi which the letter also says.”

Like the others, he said he was not informed about the Jammu event.

Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said the letter was for a limited purpose and perpetuation of any activities in the name of that letter would be akin to abusing it since it was sent with a genuine sincere hope for rejuvenating the party.

“G 23 is not an institution like G 20…. When elections are going [to be held] for five states, this is not an appropriate time to discuss any matters related to the party… No sooner did we give the memorandum, madam Sonia Gandhi immediately called a Working Committee meeting… it was also decided to hold the elections. That was enough. That is the only limited agenda.”

On the Jammu event, he said: “None of us intended to go and none of us were invited for such a meeting. I don’t want to be one of the (members) of any dissident groups. I have been loyal to the party and I want to continue in this party… So I have already disassociated myself.”

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