There is a huge disconnect between people and Congress leaders and "five-star culture" has crept into the party, Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Sunday as he called for overhaul in the organisational structure. His remarks come after Congress' debacle in the Bihar assembly elections, in which the party had won 19 out of the 70 seats it contested.
RJD's Tejashwi Yadav-led 'Mahagathbandhan' of which the Congress was the second major partner ended up with 110 seats while the NDA retained power in a close contest, bagging 125 seats in the 243-member assembly in the recent polls. There is an urgent need to overhaul the party structure by conducting elections from block to district and state level, Azad said, adding that Congress leaders at all levels should shed five-star culture at least during elections.
Azad, who was the senior-most among the 23 letter writers demanding an organisational overhaul in the Congress, said they are raising issues as "reformists and not rebels". "There is a huge disconnect between the people and Congress leaders at the district, block and state levels. The party's connect with the public should be a continuous process and not only during elections," he told PTI.
The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, who has held several top positions in the Congress, said the party's leaders should shed "five-star culture" which he said has crept into the party. "Congress leaders should give up this five star culture. At least during elections, they should avoid five-stars and stay in the field," he said.
Speaking for the first time after the party's poor performance in the Bihar polls, Azad also said that leaders should tour a state along with state leaders and not just stay in five-star hotels and return. "Each leader must have knowledge of each assembly constituency. Merely going from Delhi and staying in five-star hotels and returning after two to three days to Delhi is nothing but a waste of money," he said.
Holding this as one of the main reasons for the party's defeat in Bihar, the former Union minister called for elections for all positions in Congress state, district and block units. "We should have elected PCCs, DCCs and BCCs, and a programme for the party in this regard is a must," he said.
Azad said that he along with other leaders in the Congress were raising these issues in the interest of the party. "We are reformists not rebels. We are not against the leadership. Rather, we are strengthening the hands of the leadership by proposing reforms," he said.
Azad did not blame the top leadership of the party for the poll debacle, but the disconnect between leaders and people. He did not elaborate further on the Bihar loss. Azad was among the 23 leaders who wrote to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in August demanding elections to key posts and comprehensive party restructuring.
There have been demands for restructuring from various quarters, including from former Union minister Kapil Sibal, in the wake of the party's electoral decline. Azad was among four letter-writers whom Sonia Gandhi included in three internal committees she constituted to articulate the party's stand on economic affairs, foreign affairs and national security.
(With inputs from PTI)