Seventeen leaders from former Rajya Sabha MP Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Azad Party on Friday returned to the Congress fold.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and former state Congress chief Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed were among the leaders who went back to the Congress. The Congress said that they returned after a two-month “leave of absence”.

The party’s general secretary KC Venugopal said that it was a happy day for the organisation. “The Bharat Jodo Yatra is a significant moment in Indian politics and the changes we are witnessing are just the beginning,” he said.

The Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra is currently in Haryana. The party has claimed that the march is aimed at countering the politics of hatred espoused by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Addressing the media, Sayeed said that he had left the Congress as he was swayed by emotion. “I made a mistake...I could not sleep for two months,” he said. “I have been in the Congress for fifty years. I have worked on several posts, and served as a minister on four occasions.”

Azad, however, claimed that the exit of the 17 leaders was not a setback for his party, PTI reported. “It is not a setback because all three of them have no constituency,” he said, referring to Chand, Sayeed and Thakur Balwan Singh. “I wish them well, I will not say anything against them as they have been my old colleagues.”

Azad, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had launched his party on September 26 after he resigned from the Congress in August.

While addressing his first rally in Jammu and Kashmir after resigning from the Congress, Azad had stressed that his new party would seek restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and protection of the rights of locals to land and employment, among other matters.

However, less than three months after the formation of the Democratic Azad Party, the former Rajya Sabha MP expelled three top leaders – Tara Chand, Manohar Lal and Balwan Singh – for alleged anti-party activities.