The cost of inaccessibility: How Rahul Gandhi drove out Congress loyalists

In his new book ‘2024: India in free fall’ (HarperCollins India), Suspended Congress leader Sanjay Jha has revealed that most of the dissenters who had formed the G-23 had genuine and personal affection for Rahul Gandhi, but the Gandhi scion’s inaccessibility gave them migraines.

The G-23, a group of Congress rebels, was a curious mix of former union ministers, AICC office-bearers and other notables. In August 2020, they had sent a message to Sonia Gandhi, complaining about Rahul’s style of functioning. The group had called for internal elections and an organizational overhaul. Many leading figures of the G-23, namely Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, Jitin Prasada, RPN Singh, Milind Deora and Ashok Chavan, subsequently left the party.

Jha, a former AICC spokesperson, was suspended from the Congress in July 2020 after his party was critically outed in a newspaper article that accused the grand old party of straying far from its democratic and liberal values. Jha considers himself an ideologue of the Congress party.

According to Jha, the G-23 was not a congregation of international leaders huddled in a swanky retreat in the Swiss Alps discussing climate change in a post-Trump world order. Nor was it a gang of disgruntled old men plotting a midnight putsch. “In fact, it was a gathering of twenty-three passionate politicians with enormous self-respect for the political party they represented,” Jha wrote in ‘2024 India in free fall’ where he argues that India seems to be in a state of free fall politically.

Sanjay Jha’s ‘2024: India in Free Fall’

According to Jha, the G-23 was a thoughtful bunch, a dedicated bunch of Congressmen, ideologically Nehruvian, who were shocked that the Congress had become so lazy and lethargic that it literally handed the country on a silver platter to the BJP, which had smashed it to smithereens . “Anyone would sincerely express their personal affection for Rahul in private; it was its inaccessibility that caused the most migraines. While little buggers would taunt the G-23 as BJP agents or desktop leaders, the truth was different. I often set up Zoom call meetings with many of them and we would talk for hours about how to solve what seemed like terminal disintegration.” Jha, however, offers no explanation as to why many of these worthy people, who were ‘ideologically Nehruvian’, chose BJP as their partner. political destiny.


Jha questions Rahul Gandhi’s sardonic comment on his former colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia when the former Congress president called him a backstabber of the BJP. Jha doubts Rahul’s claim that if Scindia had remained in the Congress, he would have become chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, and asks Rahul if anyone from the Congress had assured Scindia of that. “Rahul’s late observation was a testament to his leadership lapses. Instead of gloating over the Nawab of Gwalior’s observable discomfort in the BJP, the more fundamental question remained unresolved: why did Scindia prefer the perceived humiliation of being mistreated by the BJP to remaining and stagnating in the Congress, his first point of contact? Why did Rahul allow Scindia, his Lok Sabha compatriot, to leave in the first place? If Scindia could apparently walk into the sprawling bungalow at 12 Tughlaq Lane at any time because they were close friends, how come Rahul never felt that his friend was upset about being sidelined?”

These questions are relevant even now, but provide no answers.

Jha questions Rahul’s communication skills and describes it as a ‘communication paralysis’ in Rahul’s dealings with Congress generals. He cites the example of Sachin Pilot, another popular young Turk who almost quit the Congress in July 2020. After the Sabha elections, which saw the loss of Scindia and the state of Madhya Pradesh (recaptured from the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan after fifteen long years), the Congress almost blew away the desert state (Rajasthan), which would have been nothing short of kamikaze. The party allowed itself to fall into the quicksand, but he did not seem to understand the threat of extinction. Maybe there was something that Rahul and his cabal knew that mere mortals don’t know.’