‘Too much expectation from the group was unrealistic.’
NEW DELHI: In August 2020, around two dozen Congress leaders came together and wrote a letter to the interim party president Sonia Gandhi, requesting reforms within the party, in terms of bringing active leadership at the helm and organisational rejig. The group was subsequently known as a dissident group of Congress and named G-23. The letter sent by the group to Gandhis was in view of the frequent failures in Assembly elections, general election and falling organisational strength of the party. The G-23, as labelled by the media, was led by the veteran ex-Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who left the party last week, giving rise to speculation that the G-23 has now gone bust. However, Pallath Joseph Kurien, a Congress leader, who was the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha till 2018 and one of the senior most members of the dissident group, in an interview with The Sunday Guardian opened up about the group’s standing. Excerpts:
Q: You have been a part of the much touted ginger group in the Congress termed G23. Did the group serve the purpose for which it was formed?
A: G-23 group was only to act as a corrective force in the party. I don’t say that it has achieved the purpose. But G23 certainly has some impact in the party.
Q: Congress leaders say the group had no substantial standing, it was overhyped by media. What do you have to say about that?
A: When the group criticises the leadership and tries to correct it, naturally it will get publicity. To say that it was overhyped is not correct. But too much expectation from the group was unrealistic.
Q: Jitin Prasada, Yoganand Shastri, Kapil Sibal and now Ghulam Nabi Azad, left the party. Moreover, Manish Tewari also looks too unhappy. Did the Gandhi family deliberately distance itself from some of the group’s dissenting leaders?
A: It is for the leadership to call dissenting leaders, discuss with them and give consideration to their suggestions. But unfortunately, there is a feeling that seniors and experienced leaders are side-lined. At this juncture, the party needs the cooperation of seniors, experienced and the youth.
Q: There is an understanding among party leaders that the Gandhi family doesn’t want to reconcile with leaders who are questioning the Gandhis. How true is that?
A: No comments.
Q: Has the G23 had any impact on the Congress’ way of functioning?
A: Yes. It had an impact. After the G23 wrote the letter to the leadership, there has been a visible change in the style of functioning of the Congress, though it is not up to the expectations of the G23.
Q: After Azad’s exit, what is the way ahead, does the group still stand or there is no G23 now?
A: Yes Azad has left. But there are other members who are part of the G23. I hope they will continue to work as a corrective force within the party.
Q: Just to clarify, does the G23 group still remain, or has it shut down after Azad’s exit?
A: The G-23 group remains active.