G-23 mull way forward with the Gandhis not ceding leadership

Expanding the G-23 as an effective pressure group with new members is an option

March 19, 2022 08:14 pm | Updated March 20, 2022 09:49 am IST - New Delhi

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad talks to the media after his meeting with Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi, at her residence, in New Delhi, on March 18, 2022.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad talks to the media after his meeting with Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi, at her residence, in New Delhi, on March 18, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

A show of strength and series of meetings later, there seems to be a realisation among a section of G-23 leaders that the Gandhi family won't concede leadership roles and they may have to negotiate their way back into Congress' decision-making structure.

G-23 refers to a ginger group that has been pushing for collective and inclusive leadership at levels of decision-making in the party since August 2020, when the group wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi to press for sweeping changes in the Congress party.

Following the Congress' decimation in the recently concluded Assembly elections in five States, the group reached out to several leaders who have been pushing for reforms and met at Ghulam Nabi Azad's residence on Wednesday.

On Friday, Mr. Azad called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi while another leader from the group suggested a division of authority between the Gandhi family and others.

"A way forward for the party is to have Rahul Gandhi take over as leader in the Lok Sabha and have a non-family person as party president,” Professor P. J. Kurian, former Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and a part of the G-23 group, told The Hindu.

He said Mr. Azad and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda were discussing various suggestions regarding reforms in the party that the group had formulated with the Gandhis.

Mr. Azad's Friday meeting with the Congress chief was preceded by a 45-minute meeting between Mr. Hooda and Rahul Gandhi on Thursday.

While it wasn't clear what transpired in these meetings, Mr. Azad downplayed the leadership issue by telling reporters that the Congress Working Committee (CWC) had asked Ms. Sonia Gandhi to continue as head of the party until the organisational elections in August-September this year.

“Suggestions were asked from the CWC after the [party’s] defeat in the five Assembly polls. I have also given my suggestions,” Mr. Azad said, adding, “The discussions were about how to prepare for the polls unitedly and how the Congress can defeat its opponents.”

The significance of Mr. Azad's public articulation after his meeting with the Congress chief underscored the fact that the G-23 isn't a homogeneous entity even if all are united in their objective of reviving the Congress party.

At one end is Kapil Sibal, who has made it clear that the Gandhis should step aside in order for the party to be revived; at the other end are leaders who are pushing for collective decision-making through a body like its erstwhile parliamentary board for policy-making.

"Some of us realise that we can't get the Gandhis to leave their positions. That is a constraint within which we have to work to strengthen the party," a leader of the group said.

Expanding the G-23 to become an effective pressure group with new members is an option that's being constantly explored.

"We believe that the only way forward for the Congress is to adopt a model of collective and inclusive leadership and decision making at all levels," the G-23 had said in a joint statement last Wednesday.

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