Post Mortem

Kapil Sibal slams Congress leadership after poor show in Bihar

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/16/2020 1:00:41 PM IST

 In the wake of the Bihar assembly elections results, Kapil Sibal said that the party was no longer seen as an “effective alternative” by the people of the state and was in a “sorry state of affairs”.

In a recent interview with the Indian Express, the senior Congress leader said that the party leadership was not addressing the problems besetting it. “Some of us put our pen to paper and said what should be done in the Congress on the road ahead,” he said. “Instead of listening to us, they turned their back on us. The results are for all to see.”

“We lost all the by-elections in Gujarat. Even in the Lok Sabha elections we had not won a single seat there,” Sibal said and added that three candidates in Gujarat even lost their deposits. “So the writing is on the wall,” he said.

Sibal was one of 23 senior leaders who had written a letter to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in August this year, calling for “sweeping changes” and a democratic overhaul of the party to counter the BJP’s preeminence over India’s polity.

The letter, which referred to the “steady decline of the party” and called for “collective leadership”, was perceived to be an affront to Sonia Gandhi’s authority over organisational matters.

Speaking about the letter, Sibal said that the Congress leadership had made “no effort” to initiate an intraparty dialogue. “Since there is no forum to express my views, I am constrained to express them publicly,” he said. “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.”

Sibal had previously said that not one of the requests or concern mentioned in the letter had been addressed in the CWC meeting. Sibal further noted in the interview that the time for “introspection” was over. “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,” he said.

The party was not willing to recognise what was wrong organisationally, he said. “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.”

He also blamed the party’s reluctance to address issues on the CWC’s status as “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.

On whether the party had considered its poor performance in Bihar as “business as usual,” Sibal said that he had not heard from the party’s leadership. “I only hear voices which surround the leadership. That is all I know. We are yet to hear from the Congress party their views on our recent performance in Bihar and in the by-elections,” he said.

The Congress, which had contested 70 constituencies in the state as a part of the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led Mahagathbandhan, won only 19 seats.

On whether democratic elections to the CWC and for the post of Congress president would solve the party’s problems, Sibal said that the culture of nominations had to be eliminated. “Elections through nominations will not lead to the desired results,” he said.

‘Nature of campaigning has changed’ On the changing landscape in Indian politics, Sibal said that, in the age of the communication revolution, when “elections have turned into a presidential contest”, the Congress needed to adapt itself and recognise its shortcomings. “The nature of campaigning has changed. There is a problem also structurally… in the sense that the mainstream media is controlled by the ruling party,” Sibal said and stressed that the party had to work out a new mechanism to reach out to the people.

Kapil Sibal, Union minister in Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences in the Cabinet of India, at the 2007 World Economic Forum on Africa, June 13-15, Cape Town

The party need to have a conversation with people who “understand the political realities of India” he said. “We need alliances, we need to reach out to people. We cannot anymore expect people to come to us. We are not the kind of force that we used to be,” Sibal said.

“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. ,” he said.

If the party leadership had paid heed to the advice, Sibal said, “we at least would be on the road to rejuvenating the Congress for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections”.

“What we are saying is that every organisation needs a conversation,” Sibal told the national daily. “In the absence of a serious — and I don’t say introspection because that time is over — in the absence of seriously recognising what the problem is, we will not be able to come up with any solution.”

Sibal’s remarks came on the heels of a scathing critique of Rahul Gandhi by RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari who accused the Congress scion of not taking assembly elections in the state seriously. “When polls were in full swing here, Rahul Gandhi was having a picnic at Priyanka ji’s house in Shimla. This shows how seriously he took the Bihar election which was being watched by the entire nation with a hope of emergence of a new political force in the opposition. Is this the way to run a party?” Tiwari told the Times of India.

Holding Gandhi responsible for the alliance’s dismal performance in the polls, Tiwari said that Gandhi campaigned “only for three days in Bihar”.

“He [Gandhi] addressed only two election meetings per day (total six meetings in the state). PM Narendra Modi is very senior to him in age. But he had been addressing three to four meetings per day” Tiwari, who is considered close to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, said.

“They [Congress] had fielded candidates in 70 constituencies. But they did not hold even 70 election meetings. This again shows how serious they were about the Bihar polls,” Tiwari charged. “Even Priyanka Gandhi did not come for campaigning in Bihar election which was being watched by the entire nation with a hope,” he said.

Senior Congress leader and general secretary Tariq Anwar also lamented that the Bihar poll results were “definitely below” the party’s expectations and that a delay in finalising seat sharing arrangements for elections had negatively impacted the Mahagathbandhan’s electoral performance.

Anwar also acknowledged that there were shortcomings owing to which the party performed worse than other ‘Mahagathbandhan’ constituents.

“There was an environment of change with enthusiasm among the common people for it, but we could not exploit that. We had the expectation that with the Congress fighting on 70 seats, it would win at least 50 per cent of the seats,” Anwar said.

(Courtesy: The Wire)

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