Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation from Congress got a wide publicity in media and its damage is still being assessed though he does not qualify for the category of being a mass leader as he earned the distinction for decades as a ‘Drawing Room Strategist’ based in Delhi.
But it did shake the Grand Old Party which is already passing through its worst patch of history and struggling for revival.
Good news for BJP
Bharatiya Janata party leaders must be deriving a sadistic pleasure from the continuous trend of exit of several young and old leaders from Congress, besides losing 273 candidates and 177 MLA/MPs since 2014 to saffron party which blatantly indulged in toppling game to grab the power through allurement and purchase of these greedy leaders.
While believing in Machiavelli principle of achieving the end without bothering about the means, BJP leaders do not mind it and defend the buying of saleable commodities as it is available in an open market.
Analysts point out that Azad’s resignation should not be seen in isolation as its timing and frontal attack on Rahul’s coterie raise several moot questions which have got pros and cons when we look at it from the point of view of deserters and defenders in the Congress party.
Azad accuses Rahul of useless coterie
It will be interesting to shed light on Azad’s accusation of Rahul’s ‘Coterie’ of immature and inexperienced youngsters who know nothing about politics. Azad’s critics have described it as a case of “Pot calling kettle black”.
The idea of the idiom has appeared in the 1606 work of Shakespeare; “Troilus and Cressida” as “the raven chides blackness”. “Pot calling the kettle black” was first used in such a form by Thomas Shelton in his 1620 translation of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”.
As per Rajasthan chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, who is a frontrunner for the post of Congress president, Azad has been one of the most important members of coterie of Sanjay Gandhi especially at a stage when he was a junior leader and having no experience in politics.
Azad’s ascendency continued in this capacity (coterie member) during the regimes of Mrs Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi also who trusted him a lot but now he has got hatred for Rahul’s advisors thereby forgetting unlimited powers enjoyed by him as a member of coterie?
Everyone knows about Sanjay Gandhi’s brigade of Ambika Soni, Azad, Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath, Digvijay Singh etc., who ruled the roost in Congress hence congressmen want to know the logic behind his previous status of enjoying extra constitutional powers? Sonia Gandhi also had her powerful coterie including Azad who could even play key role in the nominations of chief ministers, state presidents and ministers at the center.
Azad’s close friend, Anand Sharma is also a classic example of preference given by Sonia Gandhi over six-time chief minister, late Virbhadra Singh who was intentionally and intriguingly sworn in UPA2 as union minister after Sharma.
Sonia ensured that Anand got the most important portfolio of commerce and industry, hence experts ask whether Sonia Gandhi could ever justify such demotion of a leader who enjoyed the mass support and always brought the party to power on his own in Himachal? The humiliation did not end here as he was further demoted and allotted an unimportant portfolio of medium and small-scale industries though high command had to bow to his dictate in 2012 when he was assigned an assiduous task of bringing congress back to power in Himachal which he did single handedly with a bang.
Even today, high command has gambled on Virbhadra legacy and impact of his welfare works of three decades as CM by appointing his widow Pratibha Singh, having no mass base, as a state congress chief to oust BJP from power because party is having a drought of a leader blessed with a mass appeal.
The decay and suicidal path adopted by Congress high command does not stop here as there is an evidence of relying upon maverick and comedian, Navjot Singh Sidhu, thereby sidelining a mass leader, Amrinder Singh which cost Congress the power in Punjab. None can justify the decision of high command to continue with Sidhu who did everything to damage the party, say his critics.
Congress coteries in the past
Political observers say that there is nothing new in this phenomenon as powerful prime ministers like Mrs Gandhi had her trusted advisors which is true to Narendra Modi though he has emerged as a solo player to run the government and the party.
Mrs Gandhi could thrust upon the states some of the psychopaths like Jagan Nath Pahadia in Rajasthan or Thakur Ram Lal in Himachal though they hardly enjoyed the support of MLAs and lacked mass base.
Azad has rubbished the accusations of senior Congress leaders and clarified that he used to manage MPs to win Rajya Sabha seat every time due to his personal equations, and house has been extended owing to security reasons.
But Rahul loyalists are piqued over Azad’s praise of Modi and ask him whether he would have revolted had he been part of advisors of their leader besides re-nomination to Rajya Sabha?
Timing of resignation sounds interesting
Anti Azad senior leaders have questioned his timing of resignation as it coincides with the launch of ‘Bharat Jodo Abhiyaan’ by Rahul Gandhi. They allege that Azad has done it to please Modi and inflict damage on Congress.
They lambasted him saying that Azad had been sticking to important positions throughout his five decades career and now he has left it to help BJP. Azad, however, categorically denied that he is going to join BJP. They quote crocodile tears of Modi in parliament while saying goodbye and subsequently awarding him Padam Bhushan besides an extension given to retain house in Delhi.
Experts say that Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to accept the post of party president defies logic and biggest blunder pertains to his decision to run away from responsibility after 2019 defeat of Congress as commanders never flee from battlefield even if their battalions are defeated? Second, Sonia Gandhi acted as hurdle in his path to sideline the oldies as she wanted to adopt check and balance theory which ended in a fiasco. Several young leaders left the party as they found more opportunity and a safe future in BJP which seemed uncertain in the congress party.
Now the new non-Gandhi regular president seems to be a certainty who may try to infuse life in the dwindling fortunes of Congress but he will have to take Gandhi family in confidence otherwise his failure is imminent.
Azad’s test of secular credentials will be tested as BJP will like to rope in his proposed new outfit during Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls to establish itself in the valley.
National Conference top leader, Farooq Abdullah has already given an offer to Azad to have an alliance and if he declines it and goes alone then inference will be different.
Why did leaders like Azad develop an allergy to Rahul Gandhi
The answer is simple. Even Sonia unknowingly and knowingly became a hurdle as she kept on trying to strike balance between seniors and youths which did not work and prevented Rahul from effecting drastic changes which could have proved fruitful specially when Drawing Room Strategists do not have capacity to win even their assembly or Lok Sabha seats.
Critics of G23 argue that let others also follow suit which will give new party president free hand and snatch Parivarvad slogan from BJP though remote control will remain with the Gandhi family.
Gehlot fits the bill hence chances are bright and he is having an experience of Delhi politics besides working smoothly and closely with Rahul Gandhi.
(K.S. TOMAR is senior journalist and political analyst)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.