The Congress’
decision to drop Ghulam Nabi Azad and Manish Tewari from the list of star
campaigners for the Punjab Assembly polls is creating ripples inside the party,
and outside. Both Azad and Tewari are senior leaders who have been visible and
vocal for the party and have even served as ministers in UPA governments.

Ghulam Nabi Azad
and Manish Tewari were among the 23 Congress leaders who wrote to the party
in 2020 about festering problems in the Grand Old Party, issues
with leadership, and why the party was unable to rouse voters. Since then, the Congress
leadership seems to have decided to keep G-23 members away from critical positions.

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The decision to
not have Azad and Tewari campaign in Punjab, however, may have wider political
implications. With the apparent conflict between Chief Minister Charanjeet
Singh Channi and state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu out in the open, Congress
is going to the polls fractured. Manish Tewari, who represents Punjab’s Anandpur
Sahib, is the Congress’ only senior Hindu leader in the state.

After the list of
star campaigners was announced, Manish Tewari tweeted, “I would have been
pleasantly surprised if it would have been the other way around. The reasons
are also no state secret.”

Former President
and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee, who jumped
from Congress to Trinamool Congress last year, said the exclusion of
Tewari indicates a “sad state of affairs.”

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Tewari, 56, was a
minister in the UPA government from 2012 to 2014 and was once considered close
to Rahul Gandhi.

Ghulam Nabi Azad,
the other leader left out of the star campaigner list, has been vocal about his
issues with the Congress leadership off late. The senior leader was in the news
recently after the Union government awarded him the Padma Shri. Congress
loyalists expected Azad to reject the honour, but the leader desisted.

The Congress
campaign in Punjab has run into several troubles. The party is expected to
announce its chief ministerial candidate on Sunday.