Azad pitches for elected Cong presidents, ‘visible’ leadership

JAMMU, Aug 27: Former J&K Chief Minister and senior All India Congress Committee (AICC) member, Ghulam Nabi Azad (Rajya Sabha MP) today said that State Congress chiefs, district presidents, block presidents and the Congress Working Committee should be elected.
Azad, one of the signatories to the “dissident” letter that has rattled the party, while delivering a sharp message to the leadership, four days after he was isolated and targeted at a top meeting in New Delhi, defending the demand for organizational elections in the letter, said an appointed president right now “may not even have one per cent support”.
The comment comes after some Congress leaders `roundly criticized’ the letter, reaffirmed Sonia Gandhi as interim party chief at the meeting and leaving the question of choosing her successor for later.
“An election has the benefit that when you fight elections, at least your party is 51 per cent behind you. Right now, the person who becomes president might not even have one per cent support. If CWC members are elected then they cannot be removed. So what is the problem,” Ghulam Nabi Azad asked in a chat with news agency.
“Those office-bearers or State unit presidents or block/ district presidents who attack our proposal know that they will be nowhere when elections happen. Whoever is genuinely invested in the Congress will welcome the letter,” the Rajya Sabha member said.
“I have worked with five Prime Ministers and six Party presidents. I remained at important positions and was inducted to the Cabinet as well. I have performed from grass root level to the top. After 1977, I worked at many key positions for strengthening party and also won many elections. Definitely, the leadership might have seen some potential in me while according responsibility. My purpose is to see a strong Congress and a fully active and visible leadership,” Azad maintained.
While strongly pitching for elections to the Congress Working Committee, Azad said the party chief should be elected and it is their “victory” that they will have a “full-time president” after six months.
He also pitched for elections to the key organisational posts of State chief and district chief.
“The intention is to make Congress active and strong. But those who simply got ‘appointment cards’ continue to oppose our proposal,” Azad said.
The letter written to interim party chief Sonia Gandhi by 23 Congress leaders including MPs and former Ministers called for sweeping reforms, fair internal elections, collective decision-making and a “full-time, visible leadership”.
According to Azad, the letter suggested that State Congress chiefs, district presidents, block presidents and the Congress Working Committee should be elected.
Many saw the letter as a veiled attack on Rahul Gandhi, who quit as president last year over the Congress election defeat but remains powerful and continues to be at the forefront of the party’s decision-making and offensive against the government amid speculation that he may return. Over the past few months, the Congress has been sharply divided with the veterans ranged against what is known to be Rahul Gandhi’s core group.
Azad and other signatories to the letter who are members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) were attacked as “traitors” at a meet on Monday in which both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were present. Issues raised in the letter were overtaken by condemnation of the letter writers.
Leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and Ambika Soni reportedly called for disciplinary action. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said “evil-intentioned people” should not be allowed to speak.
The meeting had ended with the Congress declaring that Sonia Gandhi would remain interim chief until an All India Congress Committee (AICC) session in the next six months. It was reportedly decided that the party would examine the grievances of the letter writers. Sonia Gandhi, sources said, will restructure the AICC to assist her but her close aides have ruled out a committee being formed.