The schism within the Congress once again came to the fore as senior party leaders Kapil Sibal and Jairam Ramesh took diverging stands on former MP Ghulam Nabi Azad being awarded the Padma Bhushan.

Congratulating Azad on Twitter, Sibal on Wednesday morning wrote: “Ironic that the Congress doesn’t need his services when the nation recognises his contributions to public life.”

Meanwhile, Ramesh did not directly comment on the matter, but took an apparent dig at Azad.

In response to a tweet about former West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee refusing the Padma Bhushan award, Ramesh wrote: “Right thing to do. He wants to be Azad [free], not Ghulam [slave]”.

Disgruntled ‘G-23’ members of Congress

Azad and Sibal were among the 23 Congress leaders – or G-23 as they are called – who wrote to party chief Sonia Gandhi in August 2020 seeking a complete revamp of the organisation.

In February last year, Sibal had said the party was getting weak and needed to be strengthened. He was addressing an event in Jammu where many other members of the G-23 group were also present. Referring to Azad, who retired as a Rajya Sabha MP on February 15 last year, Sibal had said at the event that he was saddened by the party’s decision to let him leave Parliament. “I can’t understand why Congress is not using his experience,” Sibal had said.

Azad served as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 2014 to 2021. He was also a Union minister under the Congress-led government from 2009 to 2014 ,as well as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 2005 to 2008.