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“G-23, not Ji Huzoor 23”: Congress ‘Rebels’ dig at high command amid Punjab fiasco

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: While the Congress is struggling with exits in various states, veteran leader, Kapil Sibal, on Wednesday expressed resentment over the functioning of the party and said it is ironic that those who were considered to be close to the high command have left them and the others are still standing by. The G-23 leader said the party has to listen to the point of view of the leaders and introspect. “Democracy can not be worked by 20 men sitting at the centre,” he said at a time when the party is facing a crisis in Punjab.

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Meanwhile, another leader of the “G-23” or group of 23 party dissidents, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has also shot off a letter to Sonia Gandhi, asking the interim chief to convene an urgent CWC meeting. 

“I believe that one of my senior colleagues has [perhaps written or is about to write to Congress president to immediately convene a CWC so that a dialogue can take place as to why we are in this state,” Kapil Sibal said adding that party has no president at present and hence he doesn’t know who takes these decisions. “We know and yet we don’t know,” Sibal said. 

“In Congress there is no elected president now. Who is taking calls? We don’t know who is taking decisions in the party,” said senior party leader Kapil Sibal, raising many uncomfortable questions as the party processed its Punjab meltdown.

“We are G-23, definitely not Ji Huzoor-23. We will keep raising issues,” said Mr Sibal, shooting punches at the Gandhis without naming them.

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“Why are people leaving? Maybe we should see whether it is our fault? We have to immediately call a CWC, at least so a dialogue can take place. We won’t leave the ideology of the party and go anywhere else. The irony of the Congress is that the chosen ones, those who are close to them (Gandhis) have left and those who they think are not close to them are still there,” Mr Sibal said.

“We won’t leave the ideology of the party or go anywhere else. The Congress is the only party that can save this republic because the present dispensation is destroying the foundations of our republic.”

The “G-23” first wrote an unprecedented letter last year to Sonia Gandhi asking for sweeping changes in the party and a “visible and effective leadership”. Since then, various leaders have reminded the Gandhis that nothing has changed on the ground and the Congress down spiral continues.

In Punjab, with polls just four months away, a series of disastrous decisions saw the Gandhis backing Navjot Singh Sidhu against Amarinder Singh, who quit as Chief Minister and accused the party of humiliating him thrice. Yesterday, Mr Sidhu quit as Punjab Congress chief just two months after he took charge, leaving the party adrift in a poll-bound state where it was in a strong position even months ago.

“Punjab is a border state. Pakistan exploits the situation,” said Mr Sibal, echoing Amarinder Singh’s criticism of the party for handing the reins of Punjab to Mr Sidhu.

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In recent weeks, the Congress has lost leaders like Sushmita Dev and Luizinho Faleiro. The nosebleed started when Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of Rahul Gandhi’s closest confidantes, switched to the BJP last year. Earlier this year, Jitin Prasada followed. In Rajasthan, the party has yet to resolve the Ashok Gehlot versus Sachin Pilot feud. 

Even as Mr Sibal addressed the media this afternoon, Mr Faleiro, a veteran Goa leader, was being welcomed aboard by the Trinamool Congress in Kolkata.

“I am really very, very upset that I have to come to you. But we have no choice. I can’t see the Congress in this situation,” Mr Sibal told reporters.

Sibal’s comments come at a time when the Punjab Congress is internally split in several factions with a new drama unfolding every day. Following Captain Amarinder Singh’s sudden resignation from the post of CM to Charanjit Singh Channi’s swearing in as the new state chief minister. Channi’s new Cabinet took oaths and as the new government is set to roll with only a few months left for the election. Meanwhile, Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu has resigned from his post expressing dissatisfaction with the portfolio allocation that Charanjit Singh Channi made. 

“I don’t want to talk about Punjab but a border state where this is happening to Congress party means what? It is an advantage to ISI and Pakistan. We know the history of Punjab and the rise of extremism there… we know how forces across the border exploit the situation to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. It is these forces that are the biggest threat to the nation. Congress should make sure that they remain united. If somebody has an issue, it has to be discussed,” Sibal said.

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