G-23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad likely to meet Sonia Gandhi on Friday
New Delhi, Mar 17: G-23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad is likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday, while members of the dissenting group in the Congress Thursday held a flurry of meetings where they insisted they will fight for revamping the party while staying within its fold.
Sources in the grouping said the leaders, during the parleys, deliberated on steps that they feel are required to bolster the party, and decided to convey to the leadership that their only interest is to strengthen the organisation in order to "save the idea of India" which only a strong Congress can do so.
A day after the Group of 23 pitched for an "inclusive and collective leadership" in the Congress, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, one of its members, met Rahul Gandhi and the two leaders were learnt to have discussed a revamp of the party organisation, a key demand of the dissenters.
The meeting is being seen as an attempt by the Gandhi family to reach out to the G-23, which has shown signs of increasing aggression on the leadership issue after Congress's abject loss in the assembly elections in five states. During the meeting that lasted around an hour and half, they deliberated on the party's defeat in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa, sources said.
Gandhi, a former Congress president, had called Hooda for a discussion on the political situation in Haryana. However, the discussion spilled over to the party's abysmal performance in the elections in the five states. Sonia Gandhi had earlier reached out to Azad on Wednesday ahead of the G-23 dinner meeting at his residence.
The leaders of the grouping have since held a series of meetings at Azad's residence. After Thursday's meeting, Hooda, a former chief minister of Haryana, visited Ghulam Nabi Azad, the informal leader of the grouping, at the latter's residence. Hooda and Azad were learnt to have discussed "concrete proposals", the details of which were not immediately known, to strengthen the Congress. The G-23 had made a strong pitch for "collective leadership" at its meeting here on Wednesday.
Deputy Leader of the Congress in Rajya Sabha and another G-23 leader Anand Sharma also joined Hooda at Azad's residence where they discussed the outcome of his meeting with Rahul Gandhi. Later in the evening, Sibal also met Azad at the latter's residence.
Hooda, according to sources, told Gandhi that G-23 leaders were not hankering for any position but only seeking to strengthen the party. Amid calls by a section of Gandhi family loyalists for action against Kapil Sibal, who recently said the Gandhis should step aside and pave the way for someone else to take over the reins of the party, Hooda is learnt to have conveyed to Rahul Gandhi that such a step will be unacceptable to the grouping as the dissident leader had only spoken about strengthening the Congress.
T S Singh Deo, a minister in Chhattisgarh, was the latest Congress leader to demand action against Sibal on Thursday for speaking against the party leadership. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha, too, deprecated leaders voicing their grievances in public. "Sonia Gandhi listens to everyone and grievances, if any, should be raised within the party and not in public," he said.
Sources in the Congress said the party leadership wants to resolve the differences with the G-23 and is reaching out to its leaders. It is learnt to have deputed some senior leaders for parleys with the dissenting group to resolve the differences. The G-23 has been persistently seeking a restructuring of the organisation since it first wrote to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 about it after of a string of electoral losses and the party's diminishing clout.
The grouping had, in a statement on Wednesday, said the "only way forward for the Congress was to adopt a model of inclusive and collective leadership and decision making at all levels." They insisted they want to strengthen the Congress and "not undermine it in any way." Sources in the G-23 said the leaders discussed some "concrete proposals", the details of which were not immediately known, to strengthen the Congress. These proposals may be considered when Azad, once a Gandhi family loyalist, meets the Congress president. PTI