Congress back to old ways: Kapil Sibal criticises Gandhis, colleagues slam him

There’s a lot going on in the Congress since its humiliating defeat in the five state Assembly elections last week. There was a marathon Co...

There’s a lot going on in the Congress since its humiliating defeat in the five state Assembly elections last week.

There was a marathon Congress Working Committee meeting in which Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra offered to resign but did not. The Congress interim president’s “ultimate sacrifice in the interest of the party” was unanimously rejected by the leaders. Since then, Sonia Gandhi has swung into action and sacked party chiefs in the five states – Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted that the resignations were sought to "facilitate the reorganisation" of the state Congress units.

Now as the party is scrambling to assess its losses, former Union minister and senior leader Kapil Sibal has not minced words in pointing out the rot within the Congress. Of course, Sibal’s comments have not gone down well with his colleagues and they have lashed out at him. What did the lawyer-politician say that has left the Congress party seething?

In an interview with The Indian Express, Sibal, a member of the group of 23 (G23) dissidents who had written a letter to Sonia Gandhi in 2020, expressed concerns about the Grand Old Party’s dwindling fortunes. He said that it was time for the Gandhis to step aside and give some other leader a chance to helm the party.

He said that he was neither surprised with the defeat in the Assembly polls nor the Congress Working Committee’s (CWC) decision to let Sonia Gandhi continue as the party boss, adding that many leaders outside the CWC have a completely different point of view. Suggesting that the Gandhis should “voluntarily move away”, he told the newspaper that “a body nominated by them will never tell them that they should not continue to hold the reins of power”.

“There is a Congress outside the CWC… kindly listen to their views, if you choose to… Lots of leaders like us who are not in the CWC but in the Congress have an entirely different point of view,” Sibal said.

“…the CWC, according to them, represents the Congress party in India. I don’t think that’s correct. There are lots of Congressmen around the country, people from Kerala, from Assam, from Jammu and Kashmir, from Maharashtra, from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, who don’t hold that point of view,” he added.

The former Union minister said that Congress’s senior leadership was living in “cuckoo land” if it was unaware of the reason for the party’s decline after eight years.

“It is purely my personal view that today at least I want a ‘Sab ki Congress’. Some others want a ‘Ghar ki Congress’. I certainly don’t want a ‘Ghar ki Congress’. And I will fight for a ‘Sab ki Congress’ till my last breath. This ‘Sab ki Congress’ means just not getting together, but getting together all those people in India who don’t want the BJP,” he told The Indian Express.

When asked about the growing demand for the return of Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president, Sibal said that though he was not the party chief he takes all the decisions. “He is already the de facto president.”

The senior leader gave the example of India’s cricketing greats – Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, and now Virat Kohli – moving away. “So if men of great excellence also, at some stage, think that it is time to go, then surely, after the debacles that we have seen, the leadership should leave this space for somebody else who will be elected and not nominated,” he reiterated in The Indian Express interview.

Sibal’s scathing criticism has not gone down well the Congress loyalists. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot lashed out at his colleague saying that he was not a man of “Congress culture”.

"Kapil Sibal isn’t a person from Congress culture. He's a renowned advocate who entered Congress. Sonia ji and Rahul ji has given him a lot of chances. It’s expected from a person who doesn't know ABC of Congress to give such statements,” Gehlot told news agency ANI.

He called Sibal’s comments unfortunate and said that the Congress was the only party that could take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Those who are talking about finishing the Congress party will themselves get finished,” he added.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge also put his weight behind Sonia Gandhi. “Congress interim president Sonia will lead us and will take future steps. We all have faith in her leadership,” he told ANI.

He also said that the Congress was a democratic party and members are entitled to their opinions. He urged Sibal to take part in the next elections and bring a person of his choice as president.

Kharge lashed out at the G23 leader for directly speaking to the media. “I didn’t like this. The decisions of the party were collectively taken by the Congress Working Committee. If you reject them, you are not giving respect to anyone," he said.

The chorus of Congress leaders now hitting out at dissidents is only growing. Former Union minister and CWC member took on G23 leaders and said in an interview to The Indian Express that many who were complaining today “are not talking about how they benefited from the system”. Khurshid said that the party was facing a “crisis of ideas” and not a crisis of leadership”.

Congress Lok Sabha whip Manickam Tagore accused Sibal of speaking the language of the RSS-BJP. A fervent supporter of Rahul Gandhi, he said, “Why the RSS and BJP wants Nehru-Gandhi's out of the leadership? Because without Gandhi's leadership Congress will be become Janata party. It's easy to kill Congress then it's easy to destroy the idea of India (sic),” Tagore tweeted.

Yet another big election loss, Gandhis offering to quit, and a whole lot of infighting. Looks like it is business as usual in the Congress.

With inputs from agencies

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