Days after Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi stunned his party, sources close to him asserted that he had been “misunderstood”.
Ghulam Nabi Azad made the remarks at a public meeting in Jammu, where he and other Congress dissidents in what is known as the “G-23” club also held a meeting.
“I like lots of things about many leaders. I’m from a village and I feel proud of it. Even our PM (Narendra Modi) is from a village and used to sell tea. We’re political rivals but I appreciate that he doesn’t hide his true self. Those who do are living in a bubble,” Mr Azad said. The remarks came weeks after PM Modi’s emotional farewell when the Congress leader retired from the Rajya Sabha.
Today, sources close to Mr Azad said he did not praise the Prime Minister, that he had been clearly misunderstood and that he would clarify “at an opportune moment”.
The reference to the Prime Minister was only to make a point, since he kept saying he used to sell tea, said the sources.
Mr Azad will reportedly also campaign for the party in the approaching state elections, an answer to Congress leaders who have attacked dissidents for not supporting the party in polls instead of publicly criticizing its moves.
He is “waiting for the Congress list of campaigners to be sent to the Election Commission”, said the sources.
Just after Mr Azad’s jaw-dropper, came another G-23 leader Anand Sharma’s attack on the party’s decision to tie up with a Muslim cleric’s party in Bengal.
“Congress’s alliance with the ISF and similar parties goes against its core ideology, and the secularism advocated by Gandhi and Nehru, which is the soul of the Congress. These issues should have been discussed by the Congress Working Committee (CWC),” Mr Sharma tweeted, adding that the Congress’s fight against communalism could not be selective.
Mr Azad apparently doesn’t entirely agree. A CWC meeting for this is “not required at this stage”, said sources close to him.
The G-23, or the 23 letter writers who called for a “full-time and visible leadership” in the Congress, apparently targeting the Gandhis, have been routinely embarrassing the party with their critique of election results and poll strategies.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, campaigning in Assam today, avoided an answer on Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s comments but she defended the Congress’s alliance in Bengal.
“If you are referring to certain comments made yesterday, our West Bengal PCC chief has already responded to those comments,” Priyanka Gandhi told NDTV.
“But what is being fought for in Assam is Assam itself. It is the identity of Assamese people, the Assamese state. There are differences between ideologies. We may not agree 100% with what our alliance partners believe. But we are together in this fight. Because everybody understands today it is a fight to save Assam,” she said.