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    View: Why Ghulam Nabi Azad, who stayed beside Indira Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi for five decades, quit Congress

    View: Why Ghulam Nabi Azad, who stayed beside Indira Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi for five decades, quit Congress

    View: Why Ghulam Nabi Azad, who stayed beside Indira Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi for five decades, quit Congress
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    By KV Prasad   IST (Published)


    It is easy to find fault with a veteran like Ghulam Nabi Azad, who severed a five-decade-old association with the Congress Party. The move should not come as a surprise as Azad and the Group of 23 made their concerns known and yet over two years there is little to suggest the party leadership was responding. Ambitious, Opportunist or a wounded and disillusioned soldier, Azad and his likes could be all. From all indications, the party appears happy to let them go.

    The resignation of one of the most enduring party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad from the Indian National Congress set a buzz over the health of the Grand Old Party afresh. There is no gainsaying the organisation remains in a state of wild drift with most within the set-up uncertain over the course.
    Does Rahul Gandhi have a plan to do something about it? Will he continue to be away from taking on responsibility and steady the rocking ship? Or does the person whom Congress president Sonia Gandhi trusts totally walk the party in a direction that has provided fewer electoral dividends so far?
    There can be more than one side to argue on the factors that led to a senior like Azad severing his five-decade-old association with not just a political party but an ideology it pursues. For the mundane, the most plausible explanation that weighed in favour of his exit was the urgent requirement to retain a palatial bungalow in one of the quietest corners of Lutyens’ Delhi.
    With Azad denied renomination to the Rajya Sabha ending his uninterrupted five terms (a good 30-year run), the perks of holding on to the house he and the family occupied for decades ended. Yet, it would be dragging a leader of his experience low to surmise that a mere accommodation can dictate a political future.
    Surely, it could be a factor but not strong enough to tilt the scales. Praise by PM Narendra Modi can at best be a trigger to set leaders like Azad thinking, but then a wedge can be driven only when there is a slit in the mighty log.
    In his five-page letter to Congress president, Azad was candid in outlining the reasons, howsoever painful, behind his decision. The bottom line of the list of grievances was that counsel of seniors was no longer valued by Rahul Gandhi.
    Probably it did not matter so long as Azad remained a minister during the decade when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi was the party chief who leaned on seniors and worked by building consensus. It was known back then, as much as it is public now, that Rahul Gandhi depended less on the veterans.
    A decade ago, when Rahul Gandhi was anointed the party vice-president at Jaipur, his working style and increasing attempt to push the seniors to the margins were often mentioned. Yet, after the initial burst, Rahul Gandhi arrived at a working arrangement with a few seniors like Digvijay Singh, AK Antony, Ashok Gehlot and others while relying on a bunch of younger colleagues, some of whom have now moved away to the BJP.
    Those left out of the process of inner-party consultations experienced a sense of ennui that bordered on being ignored. After years of accumulated available hands-on work experience, Rahul Gandhi and his team preferred to chart a course that left both the rookies and seasoned politicians flummoxed.
    As the saying goes, proof of the pudding is in its eating. The working style would have been acceptable if Rahul Gandhi and his team could deliver electoral victories. During the past seven years, the Congress on his watch ended up a miserable loser in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and suffered a string of reversals in states barring an odd victory in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
    On the flip side, leaders of the likes of Azad and Anand Sharma are not known to have acquired a mass political base capable of swinging political fortunes. The unwritten rule in any political arrangement to be acceptable across the party is largely transactional.
    The leader should be able to bring the votes, and the party workers, especially the weightier seniors, will accept the pole position. Otherwise, there is little incentive even for the karyakartas to sweat it out in the field with little or no hope of making it across the bridge.
    Azad is not known to play high-stakes political gambles. Over the five decades he spent in leadership positions, he remained on the right side of every party president, from Indira Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi. Voices within are critical that a person who got the best of everything goes out blaming the leadership.
    Yet, righteousness and politics are two different streams. Now, with fewer years of political shelf-life, Azad chose to traverse a different path, hoping to carve some space in the cauldron of politics. Is he doing so at the bidding of the BJP? Will he succeed, or would he become yet another Amarinder Singh?
    These, then, are questions that will require the dexterity of a soothsayer and a leader whose uncanny political calculation seldom went wrong. If politics is the art of the possible, it is also about getting the equation right. Answers remain in the realm of the future.
    — KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. Views expressed are personal.
    Read his other columns here
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