Not one of the concerns they had raised was either addressed — or even shared — at the Congress Working Committee meeting and no leader stepped in when those who wrote the letter were attacked, said senior leader Kapil Sibal who is one of the 23 signatories to the unprecedented letter calling for reforms in the party.
Speaking to The Indian Express, which first reported on the letter last Sunday, Sibal said Saturday that the Congress needs a “de jure and a de facto president” and the concerns outlined in the letter should be addressed “as soon as possible.”
He said the Congress always accuses the BJP of not following the Constitution and of destroying the foundation of democracy. “What do we want? We want adherence to our (party’s) Constitution. Who can object to that,” he said.
“Politics in this country, I don’t talk of any particular party, is based now primarily on loyalty. We need what is called loyalty plus. What is that plus? That plus is merit, inclusiveness, commitment to the cause and that plus is about being able to listen and to have a dialogue. This is what politics should be,” he said.
The letter sought a “full time and effective leadership” which is both “visible” and “active” in the field; elections to the CWC; and the urgent establishment of an “institutional leadership mechanism” to “collectively” guide the party’s revival.
But the debate the letter triggered within the party inevitably became a loyalty test with Chief Ministers and state units pledging allegiance to the Gandhis and the signatories at the CWC being effectively sidelined.
Sibal said the CWC should have been apprised of what the letter said. “That is the fundamental thing that should have happened. This is what these 23 people have written. If you find fault with any of what we have written, then, surely, we can be questioned and we should be questioned.”
“But if you don’t talk of substance and talk of either timing or the fact that we wrote, that itself is an example of distancing yourself from the cause. And that has what has happened. Not one request of ours, concern of ours, reflected in the letter has been sought to be addressed in that meeting. Not one. Yet we are called dissenters,” Sibal said.
While the letter was not discussed, “in the course of the (CWC) meeting we were called traitors and nobody sitting in that meeting including the leadership told them that this is not the kind of language” used in the Congress. “Our letter…every part of it was expressed in very civilised language,” he said.
Asked why no Congress leader has so far supported the 23 leaders, Sibal said: “In politics, people say something publicly and think otherwise in private. They say something outside for somebody else’s consumption and they say something different inside.”
“I think that people across the country, whether they belong to the Congress party or not…they all express appreciation for our concerns. So, obviously, there is a public sentiment which appreciates our desire to rejuvenate the Congress. If the Congress is not there, the opposition is not there. We (Congress) need to be the lynchpin around which the wheel of the opposition revolves,” he said.
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