Home » News » Opinion » Ghulam Nabi Azad is Out and Many Who Remain Might Be ‘Un-electable’, But the G23 Still Matters

Ghulam Nabi Azad is Out and Many Who Remain Might Be ‘Un-electable’, But the G23 Still Matters

By: Ajit Datta

Last Updated: August 29, 2022, 16:08 IST

Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad interacts with the media at his residence in New Delhi on August 29, 2022. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)

Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad interacts with the media at his residence in New Delhi on August 29, 2022. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)

It is only in the aftermath of something as dramatic as Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation that the G23’s impact becomes apparent

The G23 no longer consists of 23 Congress leaders. Long before Ghulam Nabi Azad put in his papers, the grouping had already begun to dwindle. The name has stuck on, however, for the grouping resurfaces at regular intervals. But nothing has changed in terms of grievance, purpose and temperament.

Fundamentally, the issue is only one — the Gandhi family. It is couched in various politically correct terms like the lack of internal democracy in the party, the discord between the old and the new guard, and that Sonia Gandhi is acceptable but Rahul Gandhi is yet to come of age. The status quo that the dissidents seek to do away with obviously is the family’s total hegemony over the party.

Interestingly, the commentary emerging from certain sections has indicated that the dissidents have been no match for the family’s machinations. There is a case to be made for it, considering it has been two years since the current group of dissidents came together and began functioning in a concerted manner to overturn the status quo. Despite being seasoned and having ample time to make an impact, they have absolutely nothing to show for themselves.

The recent years might have been disastrous for the Gandhis electorally, but on this front, it can be argued that their clever politicking has allowed them to live and fight another day. The election for the party president’s post has been delayed periodically. The dissidents have been called to meet the party leadership every now and then, to pacify them and douse the fires partially. What promises have been made behind closed doors remains unknown.

At the same time however, the dissidents have been quietly side-lined from organisational and legislative positions. This has further reduced their clout, sent out a message, and given the leadership an excuse to exclusively reward loyalists.

It is only in the aftermath of something as dramatic as Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation that the G23’s impact becomes apparent. Azad’s resignation letter is damning. It speaks of complete organisational collapse and an unjust concentration of power with the advent of Rahul Gandhi. It alludes to Manmohan Singh being a prime minister controlled by a remote.

Instances such as Azad’s mock funeral procession carried out in Jammu by party workers at the behest of leaders who would not tolerate dissent evoke disgust. The resignation has been followed up by exclusive interviews to every major media outlet, where the aforementioned points have been elaborated upon. There is a buzz in the media about other leaders being in touch with Azad, all set to dump the party. The cat has been thrown among the pigeons at a time when all three Gandhis are abroad.

The extent to which Azad’s exit weakens the party electorally is debatable. There is little doubt, however, that in terms of optics, it is yet another major blow to the Congress, further magnifying its halo of un-electability. Since 2014, each time analysts get the sense that the Congress cannot possibly sink any lower in terms of optics, the party surprises us. This is where the G23 has played a crucial role.

Beginning with 23 senior leaders, each of whom have been covered extensively in the media since years, the grouping has taken its sweet time to act. But each reunion, and every comment about it, has made the Congress’ stock tank further. Moreover, every member gets a chance to play a few individual cards in the span of a few months. These include a few tweets or statements about the party’s condition, a few instances of bonhomie with the ruling dispensation, pulling the plug on some internal assignments, and finally, the inevitable exit.

Each of these becomes an event around which both media and social media rally, debate and speculate. By the time the party recovers from one blow, two more have already landed. It never gets a chance to redeem itself publicly.

Unfortunately for the Congress, it does not end here. Wittingly or unwittingly, each of these events turn into traps that the party’s leaders walk into. For example, the reactions to Ghulam Nabi Azad’s resignation, calling him unelectable and listing out what the party has “given him”, not only make them look ungracious but go on to prove Azad’s point. In essence, the very existence of the G23 has initiated a series of parallel reactions with no end to their multiplication downstream. Other than an anti-national image, an eroding support base and organisation, a largely absent leadership and central agencies on their heels, the G23 has become yet another choke-point driving the party towards irrelevance.

The G23 leaders are obviously aware of the fact that despite their grievances going unaddressed, they remain relevant factors in the Indian political scene by virtue of driving the principal Opposition party out of business. Could this be deliberate? Could it be that their grievances, which the leadership has supposedly circumvented skilfully, are an excuse to perpetuate the party’s downfall? There are at least two important reasons to believe that it might be the case.

First, however hypocritical it sounds when it comes from official spokespersons of the party, most leaders of the G23 are indeed unelectable. Not only is it because they belong to the Congress, but a majority of those taking part in this grouping have no electoral base and have depended on Delhi’s patronage to remain in the corridors of power. For decades, friendly sections of the media have cultivated larger-than-life personas around some of them, and are now forced to maintain character and make a big deal of their little moves.

The party, however, has no value to them when it is out of power. It lacks any coherent ideology for them to stay committed on the basis of principle, and therefore its survival is not necessarily in their interest.

This brings us to the second point. Considering that it is impossible to make a career in the Congress after expressing dissent, one of the ways to enhance their individual political value could be to take part in the movement that dissolves the party. Much like the dissent in the rank and file of the party is fundamentally around one family today, the Congress’ un-electability also stems largely from the same factor. Crusading against it allows them to smoothly transition to greener pastures, while generating political mileage at the same time. Many of their former colleagues have already found homes in other parties and are doing exceedingly well for themselves.

The G23 though is not made up of mass grassroots leaders who can pull off an overnight switch and retain their political capital. Hence, a long-drawn and overt political metamorphosis which also writes the Congress’ epitaph, is a neat solution.

From the perspective of the Congress’ leadership, their internal battle with the G23 and other dissidents is one where they have remained one step ahead. However, the possibility that they are unwittingly part of a different game altogether, is a real one.

Ajit Datta is an author and political commentator. He has authored the book, ‘Himanta Biswa Sarma: From Boy Wonder to CM’. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

Read all the Latest Opinion News and Breaking News here

first published:August 29, 2022, 16:08 IST
last updated:August 29, 2022, 16:08 IST