Congress’s Kapil Sibal, who has been under fire from party colleagues over his remarks criticizing the party leadership, has refused to officially respond to the attacks. Sources close to him, however, said he had expressed surprise on being attacked for not campaigning in the Bihar elections.
The attack came from the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Chowdhury. “Had Kapil Sibal gone to Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, he could have proven that what he is saying is correct and that he strengthened the position of Congress,” Mr Chowdhury had said.
Leaders close to Mr Sibal said Mr Chowdhury’s stance is “unfortunate, since Adhir and other leaders are not aware that most of the G-23 leaders were not on the list of party campaigners for Bihar and none of them could even go to campaign unless the party officially requests them”.
G-23 was a reference to the 23 dissenters who sent the first critical letter to the party in August, triggering an internal storm and ending up losing the various party positions they held.
The latest Congress versus Congress battle – set off by the Bihar results — snowballed today with Mr Chowdhury’s strong comments about the leaders involved.
“If some leaders think that Congress is not the right party for them, they may set up a new party or can join any other party which they think is progressive and according to their interest,” the MP had told NDTV.
Mr Sibal was the first in the line of attack over his interview in The Indian Express, where he advised the Congress to “recognize that we are in decline”, pointing to the string of reverses in Bihar, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh where the party has a strong presence.
In the same interview, he had also mentioned that he had been forced to go public with his views as “there has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for a dialogue by the leadership”.
It drew barbs from Salman Khurshid, who said: “The fact is we know who the leader is, the fact is we follow the leader. If we follow the leader and we don’t get what you think we should get doesn’t mean we are going to give up the leader? Somebody doesn’t believe we have a leader then they don’t know what the party is about.”
On Tuesday, in a lengthy Facebook post, Mr Sibal called dissenters “doubting Thomases” who suffer “periodic pangs of anxiety” and advised them not to look for “short cuts” to power.
Leaders close to Mr Sibal said most partymen agree off the record there is a systemic problem within the party and issues need to be resolved.
Without wanting to join issue with Salman Khurshid or Ashok Gehlot, they added that there is a “serious drift” within the party. “Unless the party takes some drastic steps and reinvents itself with a strong and active leadership, the party may not be able to take on the Narendra Modi government,” they said.