Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad’s three-day visit to Jammu is being seen as another platform for the G23 to make a subtle point against the party leadership. As he set out for this visit, Azad was accompanied by Bhupender Singh Hooda, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal, with Manish Tewari and Vivek Tankha also tipped to join them. The G23 is certainly not happy with the way things are shaping out within the party, but will probably wait for the five state polls to be over before making a move. However, media is rife with speculation about Rahul Gandhi giving a cold shoulder to Ghulam Nabi Azad when the two were present at Anand Sharma’s late mother’s funeral meeting. Even before that, Rahul had expressed his displeasure at the way the Rajya Sabha had functioned under Azad, allowing discussions and debate while the Congress disrupted the Lok Sabha with walkouts. And though Azad has made it clear that he will not be joining the BJP, there is talk that the PM could make him the Vice President candidate (Venkaiah Naidu’s first term finishes next year).
The Rise of AAP
A corollary to the state of affairs in the Congress is the rise of the Aam Admi Party. Resurgent after its recent win in the Sural local body polls (where it probably won at the cost of the Congress) the AAP is all set to expand beyond New Delhi. Already Arvind Kejriwal has stated that the party will be contesting the Uttar Pradesh polls due next year; it already has a presence in Punjab and will be looking at Haryana as well. Given the Congress party’s inability to get its act together, expect to see more and more regional players looking to expand their horizons in order to take up the Opposition space. Asaduddin Owaisi comes to mind as well, given his recent performance in Bihar, again at the expense of the Congress-RJD vote base. The Congress should take note.