‘Leader after leader leaving, concerned’: Congress G-23 leaders call for introspection

The exit of senior leader Ashwani Kumar from the Congress has once again brought to the fore simmering tension in the party. While the party maintained a silence, leaders of the ‘G-23’ grouping in the party said his exit shows all is not well.

Senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said exit of “leader after leader” from the party is a “matter of serious concern”.

Azad, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said it is time the party holds a serious and sincere introspection. All three of them are signatories to the letter 23 senior leaders — or G-23 — had written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in August 2020, calling for sweeping changes in the party. Several leaders on the condition of anonymity said they would not be surprised if the party faces an implosion after March 10 if the Assembly election results are not in its favour.

“It is a matter of great concern that leader after leader are leaving the party. (Ashwani) Kumar, I think, is the fourth or fifth former Union minister who has left, besides a large number of leaders and workers at various levels across the country,” Azad told The Indian Express. Azad, a member of Congress Working Committee and former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said this shows the Congress needs to do a lot of introspection to find the cause of these exits. “It is not right to say these leaders are going at the behest of any individual, or (any) party. There must be some disquiet within the party (that) makes even hardcore Congress leaders uncomfortable.”

Tewari and Vivek Tankha called Kumar’s exit “sad” and “unfortunate”. Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Haryana chief minister and another G-23 leader, tweeted, “The news of Sh Ashwani Kumar leaving Congress is sad and unfortunate. He is an old dear friend and one belonging to a freedom fighter’s family.”

Tewari told The Indian Express: “Mr Ashwani Kumar and I worked together in Dr Manmohan Singh’s government. He and I have had civilised differences on a number of issues. However, even if a small worker leaves the party, it calls for introspection.”

“Sad to see a valued colleague Ashwani Kumar quitting Congress. Unfortunate that someone who gave four decades to serve the party has left. A matter of collective concern,” Sharma tweeted. Several leaders said an unfavourable outcome of the Assembly elections could trigger a serious problem. “All senior leaders are seriously disgruntled,” one leader said.

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