By Arun Srivastava
It would be wrong to construe that the G-8 meeting in Jammu was a summit of the Congress rebels or show of strength by the Congress dissidents or an exercise to grand old party. Congress has witnessed many splits in the past but this meeting could at best be described as an attempt to find their roots by some frustrated and disgruntled Congressmen.
Those who had assembled in Jammu knew it well that their protest is not going to have any impact on the organisation or the leadership. It was purely an exercise to keep them floating and counted in the contemporary politics. One development was quite noticeable that the other 15 comrades who had pledged to fight for reviving the along with the G 8 leaders had preferred to wish them good luck by not participating at meet. They had come to know of the real intentions of the so called rebels or conscience keepers
The fact that the Congress has closed its door on their face had become clear a fortnight back when Narendra Modi in a unusual manner broke down several times as he reminisced about his close association with Ghulam Nabi Azad whose term was to end on February 15 and heaped praise on him;”The person who will replace Ghulam Nabi ji (as Leader of Opposition) will have difficulty matching his work because he was not only concerned about his party but also about the country and the House”.
He was among the 23 leaders who had written to party Chief Sonia Gandhi demanding an organisational overhaul, including elections to party posts and a full-time and active president. His letter had triggered a storm in the Congress and had drawn a sharp reaction from Gandhi loyalists.
Azad and his colleagues Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Raj Babbar, Bhupendra Hudda and Manish Tiwari conveying their desire and suggestion for improving the functioning of the party through a letter has been quite intriguing. The fact of the matter is they were not on the same page with Rahul Gandhi. It is worth recalling his words he had spoken after the route of the party on 2019 Lok Sabha election:” I was fighting a losing battle alone. No one came to my help”. No doubt this raises question on the leadership qualities, but at some level this also underlines that these leaders planned defeat of the Congress. Raj Babar was the all-powerful president of UP Congress.
It is a fact that most of the Congress leaders have no mass base of their own. They have been shining from the borrowed rays of the Nehru-Gandhi family. With Rahul proving to be a non-performer they became restless and started finding a new leader who can help them swim the electoral tide. Undeniably Rahul did not fit into their frame. Rahul further created problems for the party as well for him by initiating a purging campaign against such leaders. None of the leaders were of the stature of Sharad Pawar who could held his head high. These leaders preferred to remain in the party suffering humiliation.
Rahul may have been correct in his perception that he needs young blood to build a strong party. But he was politically incorrect. Congress has never been a regimented party with a strong militant cadre base. It has been a conglomerate of divergent elements having varied ideologies.
Rahul should have learnt this bare fact from the victory the party gained in some of the states while he was leading the party. It was not the youth brigade of the party instead the assimilation of experiences and pragmatism prevailing at the state level. One thing is explicit that most of the party leaders do not hold the view that Rahul must not be the chief. They are in fact ready to accept his leadership. But Rahul should have to be realist and able to figure out the factors that help the formulation of the politics.
Rahul’s young turk posture may help the party for the time being. But how it would help build a strong organisation is a tricky question that looks for an answer from him. After 23 wrote letter to Sonia Gandhi, the general secretary Priyanka Gandhi had a quiet one-to-one luncheon meeting with senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to persuade the senior leaders accept Rahul as the party president. At that point of time Azad had told her that leaders in his camp were upset with Rahul as he was taking decisions without consulting others. It was harming the party. These leaders nurse the view that Priyanka would be the better president than Rahul. Azad has also told Priyanka that the seniors in his Group of 23 will not accept anyone else imposed by Rahul as his nominee.
Nevertheless holding of the Jammu meet has received severe criticism from rank and file. The local level leaders nurse the view that since some of these leaders intend to cross over to the BJP these leaders getting involved in the electoral process were holding the meet. They point out that Priyanka has declared a war against Modi, but Raj Babar is not seen with her in public meetings and rallies.
Rahul’s speeches are no doubt finding peoples’ acceptance, but he is unable to handle the issue of firming up alliance. This primarily owes to his lack of information and feedback about the state and its regional parties. Elections for five states have been announced but the Congress has repeated the same old mistake of delaying the seat distribution with the allies that should have been completed by now. Rahul should have thought of virtues of aligning with CPI(M) in Bengal as the BJP is the number one enemy of the party unlike the CPI(M) which treats Mamata Banerjee as the personal enemy.
In Jammu another rebel leader Kapil Sibal said; It is an occasion to speak the truth and I will speak the truth. Why have we gathered here? The truth is we can see that the Congress is weakening. We had gathered earlier also and together we have to strengthen the Congress”. But he did not narrate the truth what he did not strengthen the party? Does he think that his rebellion would force Sonia Gandhi to bend and use the experience of Azad? There is a word “ inner party struggle” and these leaders could have taken to that path.
On its part the Congress did not project their meet as a major challenge to it. Instead the leadership said; “they are senior and highly respected members of the party and their best contribution to the Congress’ cause would be to get active in five poll-bound states and strengthen the party there.” Little doubt these leaders have been caught on the wrong side. Though they claim to be with the Congress, their stance tells something else.
It was quite significant that all the rebel leaders wore saffron turban. This sends a very strong message. As if this was not enough Azad praised Narendra Modi saying; “I like a lot of things about many leaders. I am from village and feel proud. Even our Prime Minister comes from a village and used to sell tea. Although we are political rivals, I appreciate that he doesn’t hide his true self.” In this context it is worth mentioning that Modi while giving a tearful farewell to Azad had said; “At a personal level, I would request him to not consider that he is not in the House. My door is always open for all of you… I will always expect, and value, your views. I will not let you retire”. (IPA Service)