G-23 hits out at Congress leadership, Azad vows to fight for J&K statehood

Zafar Choudhary. Updated: 2/28/2021 11:12:15 AM Front Page

At Shanti Sammelan, it was war against ‘high command’

JAMMU: Rallying behind their veteran colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, at least six leaders of the G-23 -a powerful group of dissident leaders -launched scathing attack on the Congress leadership asking for immediate organisational reforms to ‘safeguard the idea of India’.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, around whom the whole event revolved, vowed to fight for restoration of statehood and initiation of democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir.
With Azad as central figure, the G-23 leaders have been in the town since yesterday in a show of unity and solidarity. Other top leaders accompanying Azad are former Union Ministers Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma and Manish Tiwari, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhoopinder Singh Hooda, Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha and former MP Raj Babbar.
Early on Saturday the dissident Congress leaders address a well-attended here which was organised by Gandhi Global Family, an NGO patronised by Ghulam Nabi Azad himself. Several top Congress leaders including former Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, former Ministers Taj Mohiuddin, Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, GM Saroori, Jugal Kishore and Vikar Rasool were among those who attended gathering.
Named as Shanti Sammelan and originally projected as an event to felicitate Azad on his retirement from Rajya Sabha, it turned out to be a show of strength of the dissident leaders against the party leadership, referred to as ‘high command’ in the Congress culture. It evoked sharp response from party leadership with official spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi saying in New Delhi that “if they (dissident) were concerned about the party, they should have been in the five states facing elections instead of being in Jammu”.
Sporting saffron coloured traditional Dogra headgears, all senior leaders asserted that they were deeply concerned about the present state of affairs in the Congress and wanted to reform and strengthen the party to protect democratic ideals of the country.
One after the other, speeches of Congress leaders it appeared that they are working on a two-fold objective, in the short term. The event in Jammu appeared to be re-launching of Azad in local politics with a message that he is backed by over two top leaders while it also served the purpose of challenging the party leadership to accommodate their views and carry out structural reforms.
Azad began his speech by saying that his politics is entirely influenced by the Gandhian ideals while secularism has remained hallmark of his career over four decades. “I have never done this, I don’t discriminate on the basis of caste, religion or language”, said Azad in an apparent snub to Rahul Gandhi who is caught in bitter controversy over his north-south remarks.
Amid repeated applauds and slogans from the audience, the Congress veteran asserted that he will fight for restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. "Our identity has been lost... after many years, we are not part of Jammu and Kashmir”, said Azad regretfully. “The fight will continue inside and outside our Parliament to regain the status of statehood. When the elected Ministers and Chief Ministers will not be here, then the present condition of unemployment, roads and schools will continue to remain the same”.
"I have retired from Rajya Sabha but not retired from politics and I have not retired from Parliament for the first time", said Azad in message that he intends to keep on playing active role in politics irrespective of seat in Parliament.
Former Ministers Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma stated that the G-23 leaders are seeing the Congress party "getting weaker" and are raising their voice for the betterment of the party. "The truth is that we see Congress party getting weak. That is why we have gathered here. We had gathered together earlier too and we have to strengthen the party together," Sibal said.
Sibbal also said that the leaders who have gathered in Jammu were saddened after realising that former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is " being freed from Parliament" by the Congress party.
"Our voice is for the betterment of the party. It should be strengthened everywhere once again. The new generation should connect (to party). We have seen good days of Congress. We do not want to see it weakening as we become older," said Anand Sharma.
Raj Babbar in his address said: "People say 'G23', I say Gandhi 23. With the belief, resolve and thinking of Mahatma Gandhi, this nation's law and Constitution was formed. Congress is standing strongly to take these forward. 'G23' want Congress to be strong."
"What is the real role of Ghulam Nabi Azad sahab? A person who flies an aircraft is an experienced person. An engineer accompanies him to detect and repair any malfunctioning in the engine. Ghulam Nabiji is experienced as well as an engineer," he said.
"Ghulam Nabi Azad sahab is one such leader who knows ground reality of Congress in every district of every state. We were saddened when we realised that he is being freed from Parliament. We didn't him to go from Parliament...I can't understand why is Congress not using his experience," he added.

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