Gandhis watching the “23 dissenters” rally in Jammu on Saturday, proclaiming that Congress had weakened, in the guise of “Shanti Sammelan” would surely be terribly unhappy—and worried.
The “G-23” leaders included some of the real heavyweights of Congress—Ghulam Nabi Azad, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma, Vivek Tankha, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Raj Babbar, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Kapil Sibal among others. They are in Jammu on a three-day visit to chalk out future course of action. They plan to hold several public meetings.
The Congress party, it must be remembered, have set a June 2021 deadline for electing a new Congress chief.
The gathering of G-23 appears to be a show of strength and hardly any provocative language was used by the leaders but for Kapil Sibal.
While Azad chanted about his uprightness, “In the last 5-6 years all these friends did not speak any less than me in the Parliament over J and K, its unemployment, stripping off of statehood etc,” Anand Sharma said this group had grown in the Congress through the students’ movement, the youth movement etc. Though he reiterated that they were still part of Congress, he said the Congress has weakened in the past decade.
Now that Azad has retired from Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma said: a’There has never come such an occasion after 1950 when there is no representative of Jammu & Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha. This will be corrected”.
Ex-Congress UP chief raj Babbar proclaimed,” People say ‘G23’, I say Gandhi 23. With the belief, resolve & thinking of Mahatma Gandhi, this nation’s law & Constitution was formed. Congress is standing strongly to take these forward. ‘G23’ want Congress to be strong.” Ex-Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda added, “Azad will come when J&K will be a state. He won’t come to J&K as UT. This will happen when Congress will get strengthened.”
Kapil Sibal though made a pointed comment. He said Congress is getting weak and the leaders have gathered in Jammu to strengthen the party together.
“The truth is that we see the Congress party getting weak. That is why we have gathered here. We had gathered together earlier too and we have to strengthen the party together,” he said.
After a stormy Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, the party retained Sonia Gandhi as party chief till elections are held.
The 23 senior leaders have sought ‘structural changes’, internal election to the CWC even at state levels, the formation of an Independent Election Authority, and institutional leadership mechanism, full-time leadership at the helm at the party.
The 23 signatories include Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Rajender Kaur Bhattal, M. Veerappa Moily, Prithviraj Chavan, P.J. Kurian, Ajay Singh, Renuka Chaudhary, and Milind Deora – belonging from the Congress’ ‘old guard ‘ and the ‘young guard’ (i.e Rahul Gandhi supporters).
With a June 2021 deadline, most Congress leaders have rallied around Rahul Gandhi, but the G-23 has demanded a ‘transparent election’.