Ghulam Nabi Azad
Ghulam Nabi AzadIANS (File photo)

Veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad resigns from Congress, blames Rahul Gandhi for slide in its fortunes

New Delhi, August 26, 2022

In what is seen as a major jolt for the Congress, its veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad today resigned from all positions, including the primary membership, of the party, blaming its former president Rahul Gandhi for the slide in its electoral fortunes.

In a bitter and scathing four-and-a-half-page letter sent to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, he hit out at the way the party is being run by her son Rahul Gandhi and said it had "lost both the will and the ability under the tutelage of the coterie that runs the AICC to fight for what is right for India".

"It is, therefore, with great regret and an extremely leaden heart that I have decided to sever my half-a-century-old association with the Indian National Congress and hereby resign from all my positions including the parimary membership of the Indian National Congress," he said.

Azad, 73, had recently resigned as the head of the campaign committee of the Jammu & Kashmir Congress.

The veteran leader is known to have been upset since being ignored for the Rajya Sabha membership after he retired as the Leader of Opposition in the Upper House.

He was one of the prominent leaders of the party G-23 group which demanded sweeping reforms in the party.

In his letter, Azad recalled that he had joined the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir in the mid-1970s when "it was still a taboo to be associated with the party given its chequered history in the state from 8th August 1953 onwards -- the arrest of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah being the nadir of its political myopia."

He went on to describe how he had served the party at various levels, including as president of the Indian Youth Congress. He also mentioned how he had served as a Union Minister in the governments headed by then Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh.

He said he had served as a General Secretary in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) with "every President of the Indian National Congress since the mid-1980s" and also as a member of the Congress Parliamentary Board. He has also been a member of the Congress Working Committee continuously for nearly four decades.

"I have been the AICC General Secretary in-charge of every state and Union Territory at one point of time or the other over the last thirty-five years. I am happy to state that the INC won 90%of the states that I was in charge from time to time," he said.

"I am recounting all these years of selfless service just to underscore my life-long association with this great institution that I also served recently as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha for 7 years. I have spent every working moment of my adult life in the service of the Indian National Congress at the cost of my health and family," he said.

Azad told Ms Gandhi that, while she had played a sterling role in the formation of the UPA-1 and UPA-2 governments, one of the major reasons for those successes was that, as president, she heeded the wise counsel of senior leaders, besides trusting their judgement and delegating powers to them.

He said that after the entry of her son Rahul Gandhi into politics and particularly after he January 2013 when he was appointed as Vice-President of the party by her, "the entire consultative mechanism which existed earlier was demolished by him".

"All senior and experienced leaders were sidelined and a new coterie of inexperienced sycophants started running the affairs of the party," he said.

"One of the most glaring examples of this immaturity was the tearing up of a government ordinance in the full glare of the media by Shri Rahul Gandhi. The said ordinance was incubated in the Congress Core Group and subsequently unanimously approve by the Union Cabinet presided over by the Prime Minister of India and duly approved even by the President of India. This 'childish' behaviour completed the authority of the Prime Minister and Government of India. This one single action, more than anything else, contributed significantly to the defeat of the UPA Government in 2014 that was at the receiving end of a campaign of calumny and insinuaton from a combination of the forces of the right wing and certain unscrupulous corporate interests," he said.

Azad recalled that he had chaired the working group on Organisational Affairs at the Congress brainstorming sessions in October 1998, 2003 and in January 2013. He regretted that none of the recommendations of the working groups was every properly implemented. He said that, in 2013, he had proposed a detailed action plan to revitalise the party in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which had been approved by the CWC.

He said those recommendations were laying in the "storeroom of the AICC for the past 9 years". He said that, despite reminders made by him to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, no effort was made to even examine the recommendations seriously.

Azad said that under Sonia Gandhi's leadership since 2014 and subsequently that of Rahul Gandhi the party had lost two Lok Sabha elections "in a humiliating manner". He said it had lost 39 of the 49 assebly elections held between 2014 and 2022.

"The party only won four state elections and was able to get into a coalition situation in six instances. Unfortunately, today, the INC is ruling in only two states and is a very marginal coalition partner in two other states," he said.

Azad said that, since the 2019 elections, the situation in the party had only worsened. "After Sh. Rahul Gandhi stepped down in a 'huff' and not before insulting all the senior party functionaries who have their lives to the party in a meeting of the extended Working Committee, you took over as interim President, a position that you have continued to hold even today for the past three years.

"Worse still the 'remote control model' that demolished the institutional integrity of the UPA government now got applied to the Indian National Congress. While you are just a nominal figurehead, all the important decisions were being taken by Shri Rahul Gandhi or rather worse his security guards and PAs," he said.

The veteran leader said that, in August 2020, when he and 22 other senior colleagues, including former Union Ministers and Chief Ministers, wrote to her to flag the "abysmal drift in the party", the "coterie" chose to "unleash its sycophants on us and got us attacked, vilified and humiliated in the most crude manner possible".

"In fact, on the directions of the coterie that runs the AICC today my mock funeral procession was taken out in Jammu. Those who committed this indisciplie were feted in Delhi by the General Secretaries of the AICC and Shri Rahul Gandhi personally," he said.

"Subsequently, the same coterie unleased its goondas to physically attack the residence of a former Ministerial colleague Sh. Kapil Sibal, who incidentally was defending you and your kin in the courts of law for your alleged attacks of ommission and commission," he said.

Azad said the only crime committed by the 23 senior leaders who wrote that letter out of concern for the party is that they pointed out both the reasons for the weaknesses in the organisation and remedies for them. "Unfortunately, instead of taking those views on board in a constructive and cooperative manner, we were abused, humiliated, insulted and vilified in a specially summoned meeting of the extended CWC meeting," he said.

He said that, unfortunately, the situation has reached a point of no return with "proxies" being propped up to take over the leadership of the party. "This experiment is doomed to fail because the party has been so comprehensively destroyed that the situation has become irretrievable. Moreover, the 'chosen one' would be nothing more than a puppet on a string," he said.

"Unfortunately, at the national level, we have conceded the political space available to us to the BJP and the state level space to regional parties. This all happened because the leadership in the past eight years has tried to foist a non-serious individual at the helm of the party," he said.

Azadsaid the entire organisational election process is "a farce and a sham". He said elections had not been held at any level of the organisation.

"Hand-picked lieutenants of the AICC have been coerced to sign on lists prepared by the coterie that runs the AICC sitting in 24, Akbar Road. At no place in a booth, block, district or state was an electoral roll published, nominations invited, scrutinized, polling booths set up and elections held.

"The AICC leadership is squarely responsible for perpetrating a giant fraud on the party to perpetuate its hold on the ruins of what once was a national movement that fought for and attained the Independence of India. Does the Indian National Congress deserve this in the 75th year of India's independence is a question that the AICC leadership must ask itself," he said.

Azad recalled that he had an extremely close personal relationship with the Gandhi family, including with the late Indira Gandhi, the late Sanjay Gandhi and the late Rajiv Gandhi. "In that spirit, I also have great personal regard for your individual trials and tribulations, which would always continue, he said.

"Some of my other colleagues and I will now persevere to perpetuate the ideals for which we have dedicated our entire adult lives outside the formal fold of the Indian National Congress.

"For all the reasons mentioned above, especially that the Indian National Congress has lost both the will and the ability under the tutelage of the coterie that runs the AICC to fight for what is right for India. In fact, before starting Bharat Jodo Yatra the leadership should have undertaken a Congress Jodo exercise across the country. It is therefore with great regret and an extremely leaden heart that I have decided to sever my half-a-century-old association with the Indian National Congress and hereby resign from all my positions including the primary membership of the Indian National Congress," the letter added.

NNN

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