STATE TIMES NEWS
Jammu: In a public show of dissent, the ‘G-23’ leaders, including Gulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal, who have been pressing for a leadership change and organisational overhaul in the Congress, gathered on one stage here on Saturday, saying the party is weakening and they have come together to strengthen it.It is an occasion to speak the truth and I will speak the truth. Why have we gathered here? The truth is we can see that the Congress is weakening. We had gathered earlier also and together we have to strengthen the Congress, Sibal said addressing an event dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.
Jammu: Asserting that he had retired only from Rajya Sabha and not politics, Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad Saturday expressed a resolve to continue his fight for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood and its residents’ special rights over jobs and land.The former chief minister also stressed the importance of unity among the residents of the Union Territory to fight the threats from China and Pakistan and said “we need to stand with our forces against the enemies”.Ghulam Nabi Azad retired from the Upper House on February 15. “I have retired from Rajya Sabha but not from politics. This is not for the first time that I retired from parliament. Till my last breath, I will continue my services for the nation and will continue my fight for the rights of people,” Azad told during ‘Shanti Sammelan’ organised by the Gandhi Global family here.He was joined by senior party leaders including Kapil Sibal, Manish Tewari, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Raj Babbar and Anand Sharma.In an apparent reference to the August 5, 2019 development when the Centre revoked J&K’s special status and split it into two Union Territories, he said, “We have lost our identity but we will not give up and continue our fight for the restoration of the statehood within and outside parliament.”“We want representatives of the people of all the three regions of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – to form the government. Leh supported the UT status but Kargil is against it. Every party in Jammu – from BJP to RSS and National Conference to PDP and Panthers Party wants statehood back,” he said.“It is the voice of the people and I challenge anyone to come out with a statement that they do not want the restoration of statehood to J&K,” he said.He also said he will continue his fight for the locals’ rights over land and jobs.“Jammu and Leh face the immediate threat if outsiders start settling in J&K and Ladakh. We are not against the people coming from outside to get jobs here, but in Jammu and Kashmir, resources are limited as we do not have any big industry here,” Azad said.In politics, he said the fight continues to ensure that the people get their rights.“Jammu and Kashmir shares its border with China and Pakistan and the enemy is very active unlike any other part of the country. We had many wars in the past but the rift has not ended till date. It is our responsibility that we maintain harmony, peace, love and fight the enemy together,” he said, adding it is possible when “we are united and did not fall prey to those who are doing the politics of division”.He said every party has a right to come to the power but doing the politics of religion is not good for the country.“You need to take everyone along as was done by Congress in the past. The Congress could not have achieved freedom for the country, had it not welcomed everyone from every region, religion and every community including educated people, farmers, traders and labourers, irrespective of their caste and creed,” he said.He said the Congress learnt from former prime minister Indira Gandhi that border residents are brave people who fight the enemy alongside the forces and need to be given a special attention.“We salute our forces for their bravery in the face of challenges from Pakistan and China. We support them and stand with them against the enemy,” he said.“World leaders like US president Joe Biden makes a reference to Kashmir soon after taking over. They do not talk about any other place of the country but we have now lost our identity and have to fight for its restoration,” he said.
The event was also attended by several other Congress leaders like Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Raj Babbar of the group, now called G-23′, which had triggered a storm in the party last year with their letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, expressing unhappiness over its functioning and demanding a full-time party president.The Congress leaders praised Azad for his contribution, with Sibal saying he is unable to understand why the party is not using the experience of a person like him.Azad, who was among the vocal letter-writers and was not given a renomination after his Rajya Sabha tenure ended recently, said he has only retired from the Upper House and not from politics.He was the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.Asked about the Jammu meet, the Congress said they were senior and highly respected members of the party and their best contribution to the Congress’ cause would be to get active in five poll-bound states and strengthen the party there.However, it did not comment on the leaders’ concern over the weakening of the Congress.In a veiled attack on the Congress leadership, Sharma said in Jammu that none of the leaders present there have come into the party through shortcuts and nobody has the right to tell if we are Congressmen or not .A party can make you an office-bearer but only a few who are recognised by the people go on to become leaders, he said at the event, where the Congress leaders, wearing saffron headgears, posed for pictures.Hooda said there are two kinds of people in Congress. Some who are in Congress and others like Azad who have Congress in them.All of us have covered a very long distance to reach where we are today. We have not come from above, through the window or the skylight, all of us have walked through the door. We have come through the students’ movement and the youth movement, Anand Sharma said.I have not given anyone the right to tell me if we are Congressmen or not. Nobody has that right. We will build the party. We will strengthen it. When the Congress is united it will also raise the morale of the country, he said.This is the first time that the dissenters have together publicly vent out their anger against the party leadership and comes ahead of elections in Kerala, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.I have no hesitation in saying an organisation can give you an office. The Congress can make you an office-bearer but not every office-bearer can become a leader. Only some become leaders, those who are recognised by the people, not just in one state but far off in Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, UP and Karnataka, Sharma said.Hooda said only when the Congress and the opposition are strengthened, will the country be strengthened.Babbar said the ‘G-23’ stand for Mahatma Gandhi’s 23 .With their firm resolve, Mahatma Gandhi’s 23 will work to strengthen Congress and to make Congress victorious, he said.
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