Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s criticism of the state of affairs in the Congress in the wake of the party’s poor show in the Bihar polls and Assembly bye-elections, in an interview to The Indian Express, triggered a war of words in the grand old party on Monday bringing the focus back on the leadership question.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot hit out at Sibal for airing his views in public, while some leaders like MPs Vivek Tankha and Karti Chidambaram reiterated what Sibal said. In a series of tweets, Gehlot said there was “no need” for Sibal to mention “internal issues” in the media. He said after every electoral loss, the Congress had shown “undivided and firm belief in the party leadership” and had emerged stronger from each crisis.
Sibal told The Indian Express people no longer saw the party as an “effective alternative” and said the leadership was not addressing the issue. The Congress, he said, knows the problems it is facing as well as the answers, but was not willing to recognise them.
Tankha, a Rajya Sabha MP and the head of the Congress’s legal department, supported Sibal’s stand. Speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “We can’t see the party sliding. We are not able to see it sliding. Others may not speak because they have their own issues. I and Kapil have no other issues. Our issue is the revival of the Congress. And if people like us don’t come forward and speak about it, history will not forgive us.”
There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to mentioned our internal issue in Media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) November 16, 2020
Calling for consultations like Sibal, Tankha said a process was needed in which “we think of the best moves for the Congress and those moves have to be based on good reasons and logic, not because he is my loyalist or he is my favourite. You need to have the civil society standing with you. You need to have activists standing with you, people who are concerned with the society”.
Agreed Lok Sabha MP Karti Chidambaram. “It’s time we introspect, ideate, consult & act @INCIndia,” he tweeted.
Hitting out at Sibal, Gehlot tweeted, “There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to (have) mentioned our internal issue in the media. This has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country. Congress has seen various crises including 1969, 1977, 1989 and later in 1996 — but every-time we came out stronger due to our ideology, programmes, policies and firm belief in party leadership.”
He said the Congress has “improved with each and every crisis and also formed the UPA government in 2004 under the able leadership of Soniaji… We shall overcome this time too…”.
Youth Congress president Srinivas B V also attacked Sibal, tweeting, “When the Congress party wins elections, the credit is never given to Rahulji. And when the Congress loses elections somewhere, then Rahul Gandhi is made responsible… Whosoever is raising questions today, I want to ask them what contribution you have made for strengthening the organisation?” Delhi Congress chief Anil Chaudhary invited Sibal, who has represented Chandni Chowk in Lok Sabha, to come forward to fight against Modi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. “I urge you to spend some time every day in the DPCC. In whatever post or department you want to work… it will be our pleasure,” he tweeted.
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