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Fresh G-23 trouble for Congress as Rahul, Priyanka lead campaign for 5 assembly polls

Fresh G-23 trouble has arrived for the Congress as Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra lead campaign for assembly polls in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The dissenters have propped up Ghulam Nabi Azad as their leader.

          March 1, 2021: The leadership question has come back to haunt the Congress just ahead of assembly elections in five states. Sonia Gandhi is the Congress president but the election campaign is being led by Rahul Gandhi, who maintains he is just a Lok Sabha MP. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is a Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, has now joined her brother Rahul Gandhi in the poll campaign.

Against this background, the dissident group of 23 Congress leaders, often referred to as G-23, held a full-fledged meeting in Jammu over the weekend and addressed a rally. The question of who leads the Congress returned with the G-23 almost proposing the name of Ghulam Nabi Azad as the potential leader to take charge of the Congress.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, who recently ended his Rajya Sabha tenure with an emotional farewell from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, returned the favour showering praise on the BJP’s top leader just when the election campaign began heating up for the five assembly polls.

The Election Commission of India announced the poll schedule for assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry on Friday. A day later, the G-23 leaders were in a huddle in Jammu.

Some within the Congress see this meeting of the G-23 as open rebellion against the Gandhis, who have appeared reluctant in passing on the party leadership to an ‘outsider’.

A post-meeting rally organised by the Ghulam Nabi Azad-headed NGO, the Gandhi Global Family, was attended by many G-23 members including Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Manish Tewari, Raj Babbar and Vivek Tankha.

The leadership question has come back to haunt the Congress just ahead of assembly elections in five states. Sonia Gandhi is the Congress president but the election campaign is being led by Rahul Gandhi, who maintains he is just a Lok Sabha MP. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is a Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, has now joined her brother Rahul Gandhi in the poll campaign.

Against this background, the dissident group of 23 Congress leaders, often referred to as G-23, held a full-fledged meeting in Jammu over the weekend and addressed a rally. The question of who leads the Congress returned with the G-23 almost proposing the name of Ghulam Nabi Azad as the potential leader to take charge of the Congress.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, who recently ended his Rajya Sabha tenure with an emotional farewell from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, returned the favour showering praise on the BJP’s top leader just when the election campaign began heating up for the five assembly polls.

The Election Commission of India announced the poll schedule for assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry on Friday. A day later, the G-23 leaders were in a huddle in Jammu.

Some within the Congress see this meeting of the G-23 as open rebellion against the Gandhis, who have appeared reluctant in passing on the party leadership to an ‘outsider’.

A post-meeting rally organised by the Ghulam Nabi Azad-headed NGO, the Gandhi Global Family, was attended by many G-23 members including Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Manish Tewari, Raj Babbar and Vivek Tankha.

G-23 is the same group of dissenting leaders who had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi last year demanding an overhaul of the Congress’s internal system and an open election for the party’s president’s post. The Congress leadership has been delaying the election for the party president’s post apparently to give Rahul Gandhi “more time” to make up his mind for the role again.

Rahul Gandhi had quit as the Congress president after the Lok Sabha election debacle in 2019. Sonia Gandhi was later chosen as the interim president. She has continued in that role despite health concerns that limit her political activities.

G-23 leaders have blamed the Congress leadership for the current plight of the party. The party has been under the tight leash of the Gandhis for decades. The dissenters want fresh and fair internal elections to strengthen the Congress’s organisational structure. The group emerged within the Congress in the backdrop of Lok Sabha election defeat and loss of power in Madhya Pradesh and infighting in Rajasthan.

In 2019, Rahul Gandhi pinned the blame of defeat on senior leaders of the Congress and accused them of being self-centred. He said he had fought against the BJP alone.

However, two years later, as the Congress fights another major electoral battle in five assembly elections, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi seem to be controlling the poll campaign. Senior leaders of G-23 are nowhere seen to be involved in the election process.

Rahul Gandhi is touring all poll-bound states. Priyanka Gandhi has now joined — in one of rare instances of her campaigning outside Uttar Pradesh — with a three-day visit to Assam. She began her Assam poll campaign with a temple run from the famous Kamakhya Mandir in Guwahati. Other senior leaders are being “ignored”.

In Jammu, Kapil Sibal spelt out this problem saying, “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 Congress is weakening. We had gathered earlier also and together we have to strengthen the Congress.”

“Ghulam Nabi Azad knows the pulse of every state of the country,” Anand Sharma said at the Jammu rally.

This belligerent attack on the Congress has put the party on the back foot. The official position has been of caution in a bid to minimise the damage in the upcoming assembly elections.

“They (G-23) are an integral part of the Congress family. We respect them. But it would have been better if they helped the party in the five states which are going to the polls,” said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

G-23 leader Raj Babbar, on his part explained G-23, saying, “People call us G-23. But, let me tell them, we are Gandhi-23. We believe in the philosophy of Gandhiji.”

This leadership question has come back to haunt the Gandhis at a time when the BJP is citing the fall of Congress government in Puducherry as proof of the party’s incapability to hold its MLAs together even in assemblies where the party enjoys a majority. The rebel camp, with its attack on the Congress and a praise of PM Modi, may end up helping the BJP in the upcoming assembly polls.

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