Updated: August 24, 2021 3:36:25 pm
Several leaders of the Group of 23, who had written to interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi seeking widespread changes in the Congress over a year ago, Monday attacked senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge over remarks made by him in an interaction with The Indian Express.
Speaking at an Idea Exchange session, Kharge had suggested the G23 leaders had been missing during the Covid pandemic and said they should not “destroy” the party “that had given them so much”.
Sources said some of the G23 leaders may take up the matter with Sonia Gandhi.
Kapil Sibal, who recently hosted a dinner where the G23 leaders were present along with senior Opposition leaders, said “in politics, you must think before you leap and reflect before you speak”. With Kharge making his remarks in reply to a question regarding the dinner, Sibal told The Indian Express, “When a leader of some standing says that those who have got everything from the party must not think of destroying the party, he forgets he is referring to those who have given everything to the party, including some of us who have contributed in building the party while others left it during Mrs Gandhi’s time.”
Sibal added, “All of us are united in our consistent wish to strengthen the party and make it more effective in the national struggle to save India’s soul. We are agents of constructive change, not obstacles who are loathe to move without a push.”
Congress deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha and CWC member Anand Sharma said, “I am a lifelong, committed Congress man who believes in the Congress ideology and its values. Having highest respect for Congress president Sonia Gandhi, I stand for a strong and united Congress to confront the present challenges. Any controversy would be counterproductive.”
Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor called Kharge’s remarks “unfortunate”. “Colleagues must respect each other’s bona fides. I have great respect for Mr Kharge and hope he appreciates that we are all equally committed to strengthening the party in the broader national struggle against the BJP.”
Another MP and G23 leader, Manish Tewari, said, “I have deep personal respect for Mallikarjun Kharge, who is a senior leader of the party. To the best of my recollection, no intra-party matters were discussed at Mr Sibal’s dinner. As far as my contribution during the first and second wave of Covid-19 is concerned, I wish Mr Kharge would have spoken to me personally and I would have acquainted him with all that I have done in my constituency and beyond. Generalised statements have implications, especially in constituencies represented by Lok Sabha members of the party, and therefore such generalisations should be avoided.”
On Kharge’s remarks about the personal contributions of G23 leaders in Covid times, Sibal said: “It can be said that when ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise… Our outreach in these Covid times is something Mr Kharge may not be aware of. We have reached out to people not only within our region but also beyond, as we assume others like Mr Kharge must have . We, unlike him, do not doubt his credentials in this regard.”
The call of the hour, Sibal said, was “party unity first, as the nucleus of a larger Opposition unity, which is the only way to take on the BJP in the coming years”.
Asked about the dinner hosted by Sibal, and about issues raised by G23 leaders, Kharge, Leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha, had said at the Idea Exchange, “It was a dinner for Kapil Sibal’s birthday and they would have discussed what they had to. I was not there, so I can’t give you an account of it. But if we discuss our party’s issues before people who we are fighting with in Punjab, does it strengthen our party?… It was a personal event. But people who have got everything from the party must not think of destroying the party.”
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