The recent decisions of prominent Congress dissenters Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma to turn down or resign party assignments seems a clear indication that the rift between the G 23 group of senior rebel leaders and the Gandhis is almost irreparable.
A few days ago, Azad turned down the assignment of Congress campaign committee chief in Jammu and Kashmir after the announcement was made and Sharma quit as head of the party steering committee in Himachal Pradesh. While Himachal Pradesh is headed for polls at the end of the year, J&K might also be in election mode soon though the dates are yet to be announced.
Both Sharma and Azad were not re-nominated when there Rajya Sabha terms ended. Though the Congress’ reduced presence in assemblies makes it harder to find seats for leaders, the decision with regard to the two seniors was also seen to be deliberate – a signal that their exclusion was meant to underline their having fallen out with the leadership.
The developments come as the G 23 has received no indication whether its key demands for a full-time party president and elections to the working committee will be considered. The Congress leadership had agreed that a party president will be elected by September but there is no sign of any action given reports of Rahul Gandhi’s continued reluctance to once again assume the responsibility.
This means that Sonia Gandhi continues as “interim” president and the consultations at the “brainstorming” held at Udaipur in May is yet to bear concrete fruit beyond some limited re-organisation and appointments. There also does not seem to have been any dialogue between the G 23 and the Gandhis. In fact, the party has been occupied in organising protests against the enforcement directorate questioning of Sonia and Rahul in context of the acquisition of National Herald by Young India Limited.
The dissonance in the party has re-surfaced at a time when it is planning a nation-wide mass contact programme to raise issues against the Modi government. The G 23 action would mean that its internal dynamics will remain unsettled unless there is clarity on the organisational elections.