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Azad inches back to center of Congress, courtesy Priyanka

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JAMMU: With a nationwide significant decline in the pandemic giving way to gradual resumption of normal politics at different levels, the estranged Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad appears to be returning to the centre-stage of organisational affairs –courtesy Priyanka Gandhi.

The G-23 –as group of 23 leaders who asked the Congress leadership questions and sought organisational reforms –was a Ghulam Nabi Azad project which is not much in vogue these days signalling potential reconciliation at party’s top leadership level. A source close to Azad said that the G-23 is completely firm on its stand confirmed that a rapprochement has been arrived at with Congress general secretary Prikyanka Gandhi’s efforts who is now closely working with the veterans.

Azad’s return to the Rajya Sabha is also believed to be on the table but not an immediate possibility. The Congress is looking at getting him elected to Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu but it is going to take several months from now for the notification.

Earlier this year when the second wave of pandemic was taking a politically unacknowledged surge to later emerge as country’s biggest health crisis, the Congress party was hit by an internal crisis, with Ghulam Nabi Azad as central figure, which one at point appeared be irreconcilable. It was also around this time that the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party and the main Opposition, Congress, faced their litmus test in the regional acceptability as five states geared for Assembly elections.

At a time when Congress leaders were facing onerous task facing elections in five states, top members of G-23 led by Ghulam Nabi Azad arrived on a surprise visit to Jammu from where they launched a scathing attack on the party leadership. The results elections in five states were crucial for the future course of action of the Congress party as well as the disaffected leaders. The Congress performance, doing any better than the previous, could have marginalised the g-23 leaders and emboldened the leadership and a situation on the contrary could have vindicated the ‘rebels’ who asked for organisational reforms.

Complete decimation of Congress in West Bengal and barely anything to show up in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam put the Congress leadership –particularly vice president Rahul Gandhi –in weak position and nearly vindicated the position taken by veterans, loosely called in the media as G-23.

It was in this backdrop that Priyanka Gandhi reached out to Ghulam Nabi Azad and then two began to work on a rapprochement. As a first step, Azad was appointed as head of the Congress ‘relief task force, in which Priyanka is already playing a key role.

A source familiar with the developments in the Congress party said that Priyanka has visited Azad three to four times over the past few weeks and these meetings have contributed to rebuilding trust between the two sides.

While G-23 gears to work with the party on mutually agreeable reforms, Ghulam Nabi Azad is believed to be keeping his personal interest in Jammu and Kashmir affairs high.

 

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About the author

Zafar Choudhary

A journalist since 1999, Zafar Choudhary is also a policy analyst and author. An alumni of the London School of Economics, his book ‘Kashmir Conflict and Muslims of Jammu’ addresses a critical gap in scholarship on Kashmir. Zafar is founder and editor of The Dispatch

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