After the Bihar election exposes the Congress as the weakest link in an opposition that put up a strong fight, a top leader goes public with his critique of the party leadership and called for "experienced minds, experienced hands and those who understand political realities" to revive the organisation. Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, in his unfiltered critique of the leadership, also said the "time for introspection is over".
Kapil Sibal told the Indian Express “… we need to do several things at several levels – organisationally, articulation in the media in whatever form, putting up people who the people want to listen to, providing an active, thoughtful leadership who can articulate with a lot of circumspection.” Congressmen, he said, “must recognize that we are in decline”.
Referring to the party’s abysmal performance in Bihar as well as bypolls across the country, including in states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh where the party is still a strong force, Sibal said: “Where we were an alternative the people of that state have not reposed their confidence in the Congress in the manner expected by us. So the time for introspection is over. We know the answers. Congress must be brave and willing to recognise them.”
Sibal was one of the 23 Congress leaders behind the “dissent letter” that caused an all-out clash within the party in August but yielded very little by way of actual changes besides the downgrading of key letter writers.
“Since there has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for 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 the Congress provides the alternative to a power structure which has subverted all the values that the nation stands for,” Sibal said in the interview.
Suggesting a complete do-over, the senior Congress leader said: “First we have to have 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… 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. We need to reach out to others by those who are experienced in this business. But in order to do that we have to have a conversation.”
On whether the leadership was taking the Bihar defeat like “business as usual”, Sibal said: “I have not heard the leadership tell me anything. So I don’t know. 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 in the by-elections. Maybe they think all is well and that it should be business as usual.”
Sibal also posted the interview on Twitter. Retweeting it, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram commented: “It’s time we introspect, ideate, consult and act.”
In last week’s Bihar election results, the opposition won 110 seats, a dozen short of the majority mark in the 243-member assembly. Tejashwi Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) emerged as the largest party but the Congress, which contested 70 seats but won only 19, is seen to have dragged the opposition’s tally down. Even the smaller Left parties pulled their weight.
A top RJD leader, Shivanand Tiwari, called the Congress a burden on the opposition Mahagathbandhan. “They had fielded 70 candidates but didn’t hold even 70 public rallies. Rahul Gandhi came for three days, Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra) didn’t come, those who were unfamiliar with Bihar came here. This is not right,” Tiwari said. He added scathingly: “Elections were in full swing here and Rahul Gandhi was having a picnic at Priyanka Ji’s house in Shimla. Is the party run like that?”
Congress MP Karti P Chidambaram said it was time for introspection and consultation in the party, days after its’s poor showing in the Bihar Assembly elections. Karti, son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, in a tweet said: “It’s time we introspect, ideate, consult & act @INCIndia.”
The Lok Sabha MP from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu made the cryptic comment while tagging a tweet by senior party colleague Kapil Sibal on his interview to English daily “Indian Express” about the Bihar poll outcome.
Karti’s comment comes a day after senior Congress leader Tariq Anwar said delay in finalising seat-sharing for the Bihar election adversely impacted the grand alliance’s poll performance.
Anwar in an interview said that Congress must learn from it and complete alliance formalities well in advance for upcoming assembly polls.
Party’s general secretary and a veteran leader from Bihar, Anwar acknowledged that there were shortcomings due to which the Congress performed worse than other ‘Mahagathbandhan’ constituents.
He asserted that the high command was serious about introspection as well as a thorough analysis of the results.
Delay in finalising seat-sharing adversely impacted the Mahagathbandhan’s poll performance, Tariq Anwar said, adding that the Congress must learn from it and complete alliance formalities well in advance for upcoming Assembly polls.
Anwar said the Bihar poll results were “definitely below” the Congress’ expectations and it was a setback to bag only 19 out of the 70 seats it contested. Anwar, Congress general secretary and veteran leader from Bihar, acknowledged there were shortcomings due to which the party performed worse than other ‘Mahagathbandhan’ constituents. He said the high command was serious about introspection as well as a thorough analysis of the results.
“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,” the former Union minister said.
Anwar’s comments come amid rumbles in the mahagathbandhan about the Congress dragging the alliance down, and fingers being pointed at Rahul Gandhi.
Anwar, who was a member of the Congress’ Bihar poll management committee, said that the top party leadership had given all possible support during the elections, with Rahul Gandhi holding many public meetings in the state.
On All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen denting the Mahagathbandhan, Anwar said if any political party wants to contest “we cannot stop them”, but there is a “common understanding” that AIMIM’s role helped the BJP.
“If we would have moved to protect our standing in Seemanchal and carried out our party’s activities early, then AIMIM would not have succeeded there. With the coming of AIMIM, secular parties have certainly been hit,” Anwar said.
Asked if lack of clarity over party presidency was hurting Congress, he said the party’s poll panel under Madhusudan Mistry has already started the process for getting a full-time president.