Sonia, G-23 leader Azad, meet on Congress revamp
PTI | DC Correspondent
The meeting comes days after the Group of 23 pitched for an 'inclusive and collective leadership' in the Congress
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad talks to the media after his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi on March 18, 2022. (PTI)
New Delhi: G-23 leader Ghulam Nabi Azad met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday, after which he said leadership change is not an issue as the Congress Working Committee unanimously decided that she should continue as party chief till internal polls.
After meeting Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence here, Azad told reporters that he gave her suggestions to strengthen the party and held a discussion on how to take on rivals "unitedly" in the forthcoming assembly polls.
The meeting comes days after the Group of 23 pitched for an "inclusive and collective leadership" in the Congress.
Kapil Sibal, another G-23 leader, had said recently that the Gandhis should step aside and pave the way for someone else to take over the reins of the party.
Asked about Sibal's call for the leadership change, Azad said, "There is no question of leadership (change). When Mrs Gandhi had offered (to quit) at the CWC, then all of us asked her to continue. There will be a discussion on that when the elections take place in the party."
Party workers will decide at that time who will be the president, Azad said, adding, "The post of the party president is not vacant today.
In the working committee, when she had offered to quit, "all of us, be it from any group or thinking, said Mrs Gandhi you continue, we have no problems, but there are some suggestions we had given to strengthen the organisation," Azad said.
"Nobody has said Mrs Gandhi should just quit, let me tell you very clearly that we had decided in the working committee," he told reporters.
His remarks assume significance and indicate a softening of stance of the G-23.
Azad said he had a very good meeting with the party president and the discussion centred on how to prepare and fight unitedly the forthcoming assembly polls to take on rival parties--national or regional.
Playing down the meeting, he told reporters that it "may be news for you but we keep meeting the Congress president at various intervals".
"Mrs Gandhi keeps having discussions with leaders to strengthen the organisation. A few days ago, the working committee had met and suggestions were asked as to how to strengthen the Congress party and what were the reasons for the defeat (in five assembly polls). I had also given my suggestions," he said.
However, it is not possible to record and remember all suggestions, he added. T
he members of the G-23 have held a flurry of meetings over measures to revamp the party.
After the Group of 23 pitched for an "inclusive and collective leadership" in the Congress, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, one of its members, had met Rahul Gandhi on Thursday and the two leaders were learnt to have discussed a revamp of the party organisation, a key demand of the dissenters.
The meetings held by Rahul with Hooda and Sonia with Azad are seen as an attempt by the Gandhi family to reach out to the G-23, which had shown signs of increasing aggression on the leadership issue after Congress' abject loss in the assembly elections in five states.
Earlier on Friday, Azad also met veteran Congress leader Karan Singh and said he greeted him on Holi.
Rahul Gandhi, a former Congress president, had called Hooda for a discussion on the political situation in Haryana. However, the discussion spilled over to the party's abysmal performance in the elections.
Sonia Gandhi had earlier reached out to Azad on Wednesday ahead of the G-23 dinner meeting at his residence.
The leaders of the grouping have since held a series of meetings at Azad's residence.
The party leadership wants to resolve the differences with the G-23 and is reaching out to its leaders. It is learnt to have deputed some senior leaders for parleys with the dissenting group to resolve the differences, according to sources.
Amid calls by a section of Gandhi family loyalists for action against Kapil Sibal, who had said the Gandhis should step aside, Hooda is learnt to have conveyed to Rahul Gandhi that such a step will be unacceptable as the dissident leader had only spoken about strengthening the Congress.
The G-23 has been persistently seeking a restructuring of the organisation since it first wrote to Sonia Gandhi in 2020 about it after a string of electoral losses.
The grouping had, in a statement on Wednesday, said, "The only way forward for the Congress was to adopt a model of inclusive and collective leadership and decision-making at all levels."
The group insisted they want to strengthen the Congress and "not to undermine it in any way".