Ghulam Nabi Azad’s explosion, on a day when it finalized the schedule for the party’s presidential polls, has rattled the Congress. After much delay, the polls will now be held on October 17.
The Congress hit back at the veteran leader, saying he revolted only because he wanted a Rajya Sabha seat and wanted to retain the bungalow in South Avenue, in the heart of the national capital.
Azad, who is now working on his tell-all autobiography, told News18.com: “Around 90% of the Congress is not Congressi. Some are picked up from colleges, some clerks of the CM have been given positions. I can’t argue with people who have no idea of their own history. I wrote a letter as the Leader of Opposition to Mrs Gandhi even before the G-23. What did they do? They told me to coordinate with KC Venugopal. I told them he was in school when I was the general secretary. Then someone from the family said then speak to Randeep Surjewala. I told them, by the way, when I was the general secretary, Randeep’s father was part of the PCC. He worked under me. How can I discuss the party with his son? What are you saying, Rahul Gandhiji?"
Azad’s anger and bitterness is directed more at Rahul Gandhi. As to whether Rahul Gandhi should be the party president? “If he does not, whoever becomes the party president will have to be his slave and carry his files. Ask them how much time they give to the party? They don’t have time for the party and question my timing? We used to give over 20 hours even when we were his age."
He burst out when he was reminded that when Rahul Gandhi resigned as the president, he had accused the seniors of not supporting him. “What cooperation? Over what? He said why didn’t you say ‘chowkidar chor hai’? I told him this may be your language, not mine. Even Indira Gandhi never told us to say this to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Rajiv Gandhi told us to go to homes of Opposition leaders. We can’t talk like this. We are not brought up like this.”
The Congress is now poised for the presidential polls and, so far, Gandhi remains reluctant. But many like Salman Khurshid and Mallikarjun Kharge say that they will force Rahul Gandhi to be the president.
Azad and many in G-23 have made the point that while Rahul Gandhi may just be an MP, he calls the shots. Azad says Rahul Gandhi has spoilt his mother’s style too. “But where are we winning using Rahul Gandhi’s style. We won Karnataka and MP, but we lost both. We don’t win any, but when we do, we can’t retain the power there."
Responding to the accusation from Team Rahul that Azad has left the party when it’s at its weakest and needs help, he said: “But the Congress will be like this for the next 40 years. By then I will be in grave. So they want me to wait till I reach the grave to raise these points? They have been promising that they will correct, but where has it happened."
But Azad’s strongest attacks comes over the Congress’s barbs on him over the PM being emotional during the farewell speech in Rajya Sabha. “They pick on me over the bungalow. But they got bungalows by virtue of being family, while I got it because of being myself. I have had 26 assassination attempts on me. Have they faced this?"
The split is complete and a particular slot has been reserved for the coterie of Rahul Gandhi. Not just Azad, even seniors like Manish Tewari, Jaiveer Shergill and Anand Sharma have made reference to guards and laptop advisors surrounding Rahul Gandhi. Their reference is to some like say KB Byju who now handles Rahul Gandhi’s constituency Wayanad and his travels.
Byju is a former SPG. Alankar Sawai is a former bank executive, but now is the most important person in his office. Many critics blame him for cutting off access to Rahul Gandhi. Sachin Rao and K Raju are all again very close to the younger Gandhi and, in fact, Rao is a CWC member.
The rise of a few like Jairam Ramesh, KC Venugopal, Ajay Maken and Randeep Surjewala has upset many seniors who used to call the shots, but now feel sidelined.
In fact at the CWC, Anand Sharma was believed to have raised the point that many block and district leaders had complained that they are yet to receive any voter slips. This was denied by Jairam Ramesh later as being untrue, but it’s clear that the road to much awaited polls will be rocky and throw up more dissent.