Veteran politician Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said Rahul Gandhi is the primary reason why he and many others are not in the Congress today and claimed that one has to be "spineless" to remain in the grand old party.
He further claimed that it is not in the hands of Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi or even Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to ensure his return in the party fold even if they wanted.
He asserted "it was too late" for him to do so even if Rahul Gandhi sought his return.
The veteran leader, who has since floated the Democratic Progressive Azad Party, said no one is "untouchable" in politics today and he could go with any party to form a government as he did not rule out going with the BJP, to be a part of a government in Jammu and Kashmir if both win once elections are held there.
Azad also noted that had Rahul Gandhi not torn the ordinance brought out by the UPA government in 2013 he would not have been disqualified today and described the then Union Cabinet as "weak" by not going ahead despite Gandhi tearing the ordinance.
Speaking about his new book "Azaad: An Autobiography", which was released by former union minister and Sadr-i-Riyasat of the state of Jammu and Kashmir Dr Karan Singh, he said he continues to remain "2000 percent more Congressi" than those leaders who work through Twitter.
The former Congress stalwart, who has worked with four Congress prime ministers and remained party general secretary for almost every state, quit the party last year over differences with the leadership.
Asked if Rahul Gandhi is the reason why he is not in the Congress, Azad said, "Yes. Not me alone, but at least a few dozen more - both young and old leaders."
"Once you are in the Congress, you are spineless," he observed, adding that "you have to get operated".
Azad also said leaders should not be forced when top leadership is going to appear before any probe agency, like it is done now. He cited the example of former prime ministers when leaders went along with them voluntarily when they appeared before any Commission of Inquiry or probe agency and no whip was issued, unlike today.
"I don't mind if anyone goes to Surat along with Rahul Gandhi, but you cannot force the leaders to come. But today, a whip is issued, which should not be done forcing everyone to accompany... There are a lot of orthopedics today," he said while elaborating his "spineless" remark.
Azad also took a dig at some Congress leadership running the show in the party today saying, "I am 2000 percent more Congressi than those who run (politics) on Twitter. I am 24-Carat Congress by conviction, they are not even 18 Carat."
On whether he would like to rejoin the party, he said, "But, they don't want people like us. They want those who are fast on Twitter and are claiming that after Bharat Jodo Yatra the party will get 500 seats."
He said he was angry at those leaders who are "destroying" the party today.
Asked if Sonia Gandi gave him a call to return to the Congress fold, he said, "kaash agar Sonia Gandhi ke haath mein hota to hum yahan aate nahin (I wish if that was in the hands of Sonia Gandhi, we would have been sitting here today)... Sonia Gandhi cannot decide."
On whether Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge would decide on his re-entry, he said, "no way".
And if Rahul Gandhi wanted his return, Azad said "it is too late. I know the working style of the present leadership."
"Congress leaders dub me who has been 'Modi-fied', but I am 'Azadi-fied'," he noted, asserting that he may have left the Congress party but his objectivity has not gone.
The former leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha said Indira Gandhi was a 24x7 politician and Rajiv Gandhi, though being a reluctant leader initially, was also totally into politics and 24 hours were less for him once he finally decided to enter politics.
"I wish Rahul Gandhi would have worked 1/50th of what Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi did, he would have succeeded," he said while training his guns on Rahul Gandhi.
He also noted that politics is first a commitment to oneself, to people, to party and to country, and one has to rise to the occasion when required and when there is party work.
"Time does not wait for anyone. Politics is survival of the fittest," he said, adding that he may not like Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his ideology but he is a 24-hour politician and one should not ignore that while fighting with him.
On the ordinance brought out by the UPA government in 2013, he said, "We brought the ordinance because we knew that one should be ready that other parties will be in power too and they would use it against us. It was a weak cabinet and it should have gone ahead by bringing a law and should have stuck by its decision of bringing the law even after Rahul Gandhi dismissed it as nonsense and tore it," he said.
"It was a wrong thing on the part of the Congress party and decided to keep mum at the time...Rahul Gandhi would have been saved today through that only. The one who tore it, it got applied on him now. He should have realised it then...'khud kiye aapne deewaron mein suraakh, ab koin jhaank rahe hain to shor kyon (after you created holes in your own wall, when people are watching through them then why raise a voice now).
On whether he would go with the BJP if his party was in a position to form a government, he said, "Why are you jumping the gun."
He also recalled that they have had an alliance with the National Conference and the PDP, asserting that the BJP may get a maximum of 25 seats, but there are other 65 seats left for him to ally with.
"In politics no one is untouchable. In politics, no one is permanent friend, no one is permanent enemy. These days nobody is untouchable in politics," he said.
Asked why he is allowed to keep his house at a time when Rahul Gandhi has been asked to vacate his official bungalow, Azad said, "I was attacked by militants 26 times in Punjab and 16 times in Jammu and Kashmir when I was chief minister."
"I have been given the house because of home ministry's orders (on threat perception)," he said.
"I have been giving water, power and other bills including on my security from my own pension".