Days after a show of strength by a section of the Congress group of dissenters (the “G-23”) in Jammu, a key member of the group, Anand Sharma, on Monday lashed at out at his party for having an alliance with the Indian Secular Front (ISF) party in West Bengal, and asserted that the poll tie-up “militates against Congress ideology”.
On Sunday, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is also the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, had shared a stage with Left leaders and ISF founder Abbas Siddiqui of Furfura Sharief at a public rally of the grand alliance.
Mr. Sharma’s outburst came on a day when the Congress tried to create a divide among the G-23 — leaders who had sought a complete revamp of the party in a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi last August — by appointing one of the letter writers, Prithviraj Chavan, as the head of screening committee to shortlist party candidates for poll-bound Assam.
Issuing a strong counter, Mr. Chowdhury told The Hindu that Mr. Sharma should have spoken to him first to “find out ground realities” and asserted that Congress’ alliance was with the Left parties for 92 seats and other secular forces are part of the grand alliance”.
“Congress’ alliance with parties like ISF and other such forces militates against the core ideology of the party and Gandhian and Nehruvian secularism, which forms the soul of the party. These issues need to be approved by the CWC [Congress Working Committee],” tweeted Mr. Sharma, the Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha.
“Congress cannot be selective in fighting communalists but must do so in all its manifestations, irrespective of religion and colour. The presence and endorsement [of] West Bengal PCC [Pradesh Congress Committee] President is painful and shameful, he must clarify,” he added.
His comments targeting the Congress came barely 24 hours after his senior colleague, Ghulam Nabi Azad, heaped praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “not hiding his humble background of selling tea and washing utensils”.
Mr. Azad’s comment embarrassed the Congress, which is in the midst of fighting Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala, Assam and Bengal by targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Modi government’s policies.
It could create unease within G-23 leaders as many of them continue to be fierce critics of the Prime Minister.
“When many of us have questioned the claim of Mr. Modi being a tea seller, how can we now praise the same thing?” said a senior member of the group, who called Mr. Azad’s remark “off the cuff” and that it had not been thought through.
The G-23 had its first show of strength last Saturday at Jammu where senior leaders like Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, Raj Babbar and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, besides Mr. Azad and Mr. Sharma.
Many of the G-23 leaders, however, have kept away from the recent developments. In a subtle message to his party colleagues, Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor, a prominent G-23 member, tweeted a photo in which he is seen welcoming Rahul Gandhi at Thiruvananthapuram.