Padma Bhushan: Jairam swipe at Ghulam Nabi Azad widens rift in Congress

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THE BJP government’s decision to confer Padma Bhushan on veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has once again brought to the fore the divide in the grand old party. While the party officially did not comment, many of the Group of 23 leaders, who had earlier sought changes in the party, came out congratulating Azad.

Congress chief whip in Rajya Sabha Jairam Ramesh’s swipe at Azad, a former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, has angered the group of leaders who had written to party president Sonia Gandhi demanding sweeping changes in the party structure.

In fact, senior Congress leader and former Union minister Ashwani Kumar hit out at Ramesh, who while praising CPI(M) veteran Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s rejection of the Padma Bhushan, tweeted on Tuesday: “Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad not Ghulam.”

“Congress Rajya Sabha Whip’s criticism of Ghulam Nabi Azad for receiving the Padma award is nothing less than a shameful innuendo intended to rob both the award and its recipient of the deserved dignity. Such a mindset does not do justice to the dignitarian ethos of the Congress,” Kumar said. He said the award is a “national honour irrespective of which party gives to which leader”. Kumar is not a signatory to the letter which was written to Sonia Gandhi in 2020.


Party’s loud silence

THE CONGRESS’S silence on the honour given to Ghulam Nabi Azad and also on Jairam Ramesh’s dig at him only reveal the extent of divisions and mistrust among the party’s top brass. While tensions simmer, both the sides are keenly watching the upcoming Assembly elections in the five states, where the party has big stakes. A poor performance would exacerbate the internal tussle and deepen the crisis ahead of the party’s organisational elections to pick a new president later this year.

Senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal took potshots at the party. “Ghulam Nabi Azad conferred Padma Bhushan. Congratulations bhaijan. Ironic that the Congress doesn’t need his services when the nation recognises his contributions to public life,” he tweeted. He did not wish to elaborate.

The Congress’s silence and Ramesh’s swipe has not gone down well with the G 23 leaders. “Jairam’s tweet was very distasteful. He just wants to be in the news by abusing a colleague… It is not a BJP or RSS honour. The Congress should have shown grace and welcomed it and congratulated Azad. We have lost all the grace now,” a senior leader said.

It was not just Congress leaders who disapproved of Ramesh’s tweet. Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted: “Calling someone Azad for declining a national honour and Ghulam for accepting it… shows how shallow one’s thought is towards a national honour. This isn’t the first nor the last time that opposition leaders will be acknowledged for their work, please maintain that spirit and dignity.”

The other signatories of the letter congratulated Azad on Twitter. Manish Tewari and Anand Sharma said it was a “well deserved recognition”.

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