ONE of the 23 senior Congress leaders who wrote the unprecedented letter to Sonia Gandhi demanding sweeping changes in the party, Kapil Sibal on Sunday spoke up again in the wake of the Congress’s poor showing in the recent Bihar Assembly elections and bypolls, saying the people no longer saw the party as an “effective alternative”, and that the leadership was not addressing the problems facing the party.
The Congress knows the problems besetting it and the answers but is not willing to recognise them, which was coming in the way of finding a solution, Sibal told The Indian Express. “Some of us put our pen to paper and said what should be done in the Congress on the road ahead. Instead of listening to us, they turned their back on us. The results are for all to see… People of the country, not just in Bihar but wherever by-elections were held, obviously don’t consider the Congress to be an effective alternative.”
The time for “introspection” was over, Sibal said. “A colleague of mine who is a part of the CWC (Congress Working Committee) said the other day that ‘I hope the Congress introspects’. If for six years the Congress has not introspected, what hope do we have for introspection now? We know what is wrong with the Congress.
Organisationally, we know what is wrong. We have all the answers. The Congress itself knows all the answers. But they are not willing to recognise those answers… then the graph will continue to decline… The Congress must be brave and willing to recognise them.”
Sibal said the reluctance to address issues was because the CWC (the highest policy making body of the party) was “a nominated body”. “Democratic processes must be adopted and embraced, even in the constitution of the CWC, which is reflected in the provisions of the Congress constitution. You don’t expect nominated members to start questioning,” he said.
Sibal pointed out that the Congress had lost “all the (eight) by-elections in Gujarat”, with three of its candidates losing their deposits, while “in some of the (seven) constituencies in Uttar Pradesh Congress candidates notched up less than 2% of the votes cast”. Even in Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress held power till recently, the party had underperformed in the bypolls for 28 seats, he said.
Asked if the Congress leadership was taking it as business as usual, Sibal said, “I don’t know. I am only talking about myself. I have not heard the leadership tell me anything… I only hear voices which surround the leadership… We are yet to hear from the Congress party their views on our recent performance in Bihar and the by-elections. Maybe they think all is well and that it should be business as usual.”
In August, Sibal was among the signatories on the letter to Sonia Gandhi, the acting Congress president, seeking changes and appointment of a “full time and effective leadership” which is both “visible” and “active” in the field.
Asked about the letter, he said: “Since there has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for a dialogue by the leadership and since there is no forum to express my views, I am constrained to express them publicly. I am a Congressman and will remain a Congressman and hope and pray that Congress provides the alternative to a power structure which has subverted all the values that the nation stands for.”
Asked whether democratic elections within the party were the answer to Congress revival, he said, “Since the communication revolution took place, elections have turned into a presidential contest… If we are not able to recognise our shortcomings, then even the electoral process will not lead to the desired results… Elections through nominations will not lead to the desired results… Results will only come with time, come with credibility, come with change in discourse, and come with a certain acceptance of our ideological positions. So even if they had listened to us, we wouldn’t have had great results. But we at least would be on the road to rejuvenating the Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.”
Every organisation, Sibal said, needs a conversation, “with experienced minds, experienced hands, with people who understand the political realities of India, people who know what and how to articulate in the media, people who know how to get people to listen to them”.
He also called for alliances. “We cannot anymore expect people to come to us. We are not the kind of force we used to be.”