Veteran politician and former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad believes the Congress is still run by “remote control” and alleges that a “new coterie of inexperienced sycophants” manage its affairs.
Ahead of the release of his book ‘Azaad — An Autobiography’, the former Congress stalwart, who quit the party last year, refused to talk about the issues he had with his former colleagues. “The more I dig into the past, the more bitterness surfaces, and I don’t want to dwell with that since I have stepped out of the party,” he said.
At the same time, Azad, who was chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said he had great respect for Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, but acknowledged there were political differences with Rahul Gandhi.
“…as an individual, I am not saying Rahul Gandhi is a bad person. As an individual he is a good person. Maybe we have some political issues but those are the political issues that I had with him as long as I was in the Congress. Since I am no longer in the Congress party, I am nobody to tell him what is right for him and what is wrong for him,” the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) chief said.
“I can only wish him well both health wise and politically. It is for him to navigate. I only wish he is a good swimmer and he knows how to navigate the rough waters. Politics is an art of navigating in rough sea. Even the best captains, if they don’t have the experience…can doom the entire ship,” Azad said.
Rahul Gandhi might not be holding any post as of now but everyone knows that he is the “captain of the ship (Congress)”, he said and added that “…everybody knows who is calling the shots”.
“If tomorrow (Congress president Mallikarjun) Kharge ji wants a CWC (Congress Working Committee) meeting in Bengaluru, nobody will go…so I only wish him (Rahul Gandhi) to navigate the ship,” he said and added that “it is for him to find whether he is a good navigator or a bad navigator, I am out of the ship and I better navigate in the river”.
“The remote-control model that destroyed the institutional integrity of the party to the manner in which proxies were being propped up to take over the leadership of the party, it was a no-holds-barred account of how the grand old party had lost both the will and the ability to fight for what is right for India”, he said.
In his book, he has highlighted several instances where he had sharp differences with Rahul Gandhi, particularly after 23 Congress leaders in August 2020 had written to the then party president Sonia Gandhi.
“I guess it was beginning of the end as the leadership instead of taking this letter as a wake-up call, and strengthening the organisation and holding party elections on the lines we had suggested, both Rahul and Sonia ji took offence and viewed it as a challenge to their authority,” Azad said, adding that instead of heeding to the suggestions, the G-23 was snubbed as being pro-BJP.
“I still wonder, if we were pro-BJP, why would we suggest strengthening the organisation? Rather, we would simply let things continue as they were and make the dream of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)’, which the current leadership (BJP) seems to have embarked upon, come true,” he said, adding that “writing a letter to strengthen the same (Congress) organisation cost me heavily”.
Rahul Gandhi’s leadership was not only instrumental in “complete demolition of the Congress’ consultative mechanism but also gave rise to a new coterie of inexperienced sycophants to run the affairs of the party”, Azad said.