Four Congress leaders and 12 workers of the Apni Party resigned from their roles on Monday to support veteran politician Ghulam Nabi Azad, PTI reported.

Azad, former Union minister, on Friday resigned from the Congress saying that Rahul Gandhi demolished the party’s “consultive mechanism”.

A week before, Azad had declined to be the party’s campaign committee head and a member of the political affairs panel of the Jammu and Kashmir unit.

In his resignation letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi, Azad wrote that the Congress has lost the will and ability to fight for what is right for the country. This, he said, was because the party was running under the instructions of a small group of All India Congress Committee leaders.

Hours later, five former MLAs from Jammu and Kashmir, including GM Saroori, Haji Abdul Rashid, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Gulzar Ahmad Wani and Choudhary Mohammad Akram resigned from the Congress.

On Monday, Gulam Hyder Malik, a former Congress MLA from Kathua’s Bani, and two former MLCs – Subash Gupta from Kathua and Sham Lal Bhagat from Doda – submitted their resignation letters.

“We have received the letters [of support] from Malik, Gupta and Bhagat,” Saroori told PTI.

Maheshwar Singh Manhas, general secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress, also quit the party on Monday.

Azad recalls Rahul’s ‘chowkidar chor hai’ remark

Azad on Monday said that Rahul Gandhi insulted senior Congress leaders by asking them to shout the “chowkidar chor hai” slogan during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, NDTV reported.

The “chowkidar chor hai” slogan was used extensively by Gandhi and the Congress party during the Lok Sabha elections to claim Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal.

At the party meeting after the 2019 elections, Azad said that Gandhi asked for a show of hands for those who used the slogan during campaigning. Senior leaders like Manmohan Singh, AK Antony, P Chidambaram and Azad were present at the time.

“I was sunk in my chair,” Azad said, NDTV reported. “So many senior people who have been chief minister, ministers with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao – how do you expect them to speak this language in public?”

Azad said that senior leaders like him got their political education under former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, but were never taught to say “PM chor hai [Prime Minister is a thief]”.

“We can attack Modi right, left and centre, but we can’t go personal like this?” he asked. “Is this the language senior Cabinet ministers should use?”

Azad said he gives his best wishes to the Congress “but the party needs medicines more than my wishes”, PTI reported. “And, these medicines are being provided to the Congress by compounders instead of doctors and there is a need for specialists,” Azad told reporters at his residence.

The party leadership, he said, has no time to address matters within the Congress.

“The Congress is giving such leaders in states and promoting those who are making people quit the organisation rather than uniting them with the party,” he added.

He said the party’s foundation has turned weak, and so, he decided to leave the Congress, PTI reported.