Congress' structure has collapsed: "Dissenter" Ghulam Nabi Azad speaks again
Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was one of the 23 signatories of the unprecedented letter written to party President Sonia Gandhi, has again given his opinion on the issues plaguing the grand old party, in the aftermath of poor performance in Bihar and other states. He admitted that Congress has lost connection with people on the ground and that the situation is "not good."
Azad, the leader in Rajya Sabha, said the "organizational system" in Congress has collapsed, and conducting internal polls might help the party. "We will not improve our position in any state unless we have the block-level, district-level and PCC-level elections, which has been our demand from Day one," he told Indian Express. He said the "structure needs to be rebuilt."
Azad was extremely critical of the "five-star" culture within Congress. Drawing comparisons with rival BJP, he said the saffron party has organizations on the ground, hence, its leaders can afford to return to a state's capital for the night, during electioneering. Congress doesn't have this luxury, he underlined, adding that its leaders shouldn't rush to hotels to relax themselves.
"Instead of getting tempted to come back to the state capital by helicopter and stay in a hotel and wasting productive hours....Congress leaders, whether they are general secretaries, secretaries, PCC presidents or other star campaigners...should stay at the district and taluka level," he suggested.
The 71-year-old former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir said making Congress "good" is possible. He also didn't favor labeling the dissenters as "rebels." "We are not rebels. We are reformists. Rebels want to remove a person who is in a position and get him replaced with himself. Reformists are those who are not bothered about leadership," he explained.
However, Azad didn't call for a change in the party's national leadership. "The perceptible change will take place only if we bring the system in order at the state-, district- and booth-level...This system was derailed after Rajiv Gandhi's death," he said, adding that two non-Gandhi presidents took charge after his demise. He was referring to PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri.
When asked if the leadership listens to the "reformists," Azad answered in the positive. "We had made five demands — a full-time president and election should be immediately held for that and an elected (Congress) Working Committee. Both have been agreed upon," he said. Azad claimed both Sonia and son Rahul wanted to hold elections in October, but coronavirus postponed the plans.
Azad aligned with his colleagues Kapil Sibal and P Chidambaram, both of whom wanted retrospection after the recent debacle. "Retrospection means there should be a discussion on why we lost in Bihar, why we won few seats in Madhya Pradesh," he said, adding that the conclusions from the discussions should be applied. "This is what we have to do," he underscored.
"Office-bearers should understand that their responsibility begins with their appointment. They should love the party. I quote a couplet: Ye ishq nahi aasaan, bas itna samajh lije. Ik aag ka darya hai aur doob ke jaana hai," he told, reports HT.
Azad also defended Sonia and Rahul's Goa trip, which a few slammed saying they were vacationing when the party was at its lowest. In Bihar, Congress won merely 19 of the 70 Assembly seats it contested. "Going to Goa is not forbidden. Goa is a part of India...If the leader is going for three-four days holiday, the world does not stop," he asserted.
It won't be surprising if Azad's comments evoke the same criticism as Sibal's words did. Sibal, who also signed the August letter, was hugely critical of the party's style of functioning. Furious at his remarks, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury suggested he should form his own party, while Salman Khurshid said "doubting Thomases" have "periodic pangs of anxiety." "We know who the leader is," said Khurshid.