Cracks in G-23: Fissures are appearing in the group of 23 senior Congress leaders (known as G-23) who have come together to demand a slew of reforms including elections at all levels to revive the grand old party. These 23 leaders have also written letters (some individually) to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi underlying the need of reforms to strengthen the Congress. Some of the leaders part of this group are Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Sibal has been saying that the party has drifted and leadership needs to realise the disconnect on the ground. All these remarks were seen as part of an honest attempt to revive the party until an event last week in Jammu, where some of the signatories, wearing a saffron gamcha, criticised the party and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These have not gone down well with some other signatories of the letter who now say that they stand by what reforms they sought but these efforts should not become a dissident activity.
Addressing a joint meeting in Jammu, a number of senior leaders last week questioned the top party leaders for not retaining Ghulam Nabi Azad as the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. On Saturday, Azad praised Prime Minister Modi as someone who is proud of his roots and does not hide it. On Monday, Anand Sharma, deputy leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, slammed Bengal Congress in-charge Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury for partnering with Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front, saying the alliance with parties like ISF and other such forces militates against the core ideology of the party and Gandhian and Nehruvian secularism, which forms the soul of the party. “These issues need to be approved by the CWC,” he added.
Sharma further said that the Congress cannot be selective in fighting communalists but must do so in all its manifestations, irrespective of religion and colour. “The presence and endorsement of the West Bengal PCC President (Adhir Ranjan) is painful and shameful, he must clarify,” he said. Anand Sharma was deputy of Azad and was in the line to become the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha but he was overlooked and the post was given to Mallikarjun Kharge.
Reacting to these remarks, at least four senior leaders have said that leaders should raise their voice to strengthen the but it should not convert it into dissident activity. Speaking to The Indian Express, former Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said that their activities are alright to the extent of strengthening the Congress but it should not become a dissident activity. Certainly, he said, 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,” he added. Kurien said that he was 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,” he told IE.
Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said the letter (written by G23) was for a limited purpose and it should not be abused by perpetuating any activities in the name of that letter. “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,” Moily was quoted as saying by IE.