New Delhi: Several Congress leaders of the ‘Group of 23’, which had last year written to party chief Sonia Gandhi demanding an organisational overhaul, on Thursday strongly condemned the attack on their colleague Kapil Sibal’s house and termed it as “orchestrated hooliganism”.
Congress workers protested outside Sibal’s house and reportedly damaged a car, after he raised questions over the party’s functioning and attacked its leadership.
Senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Vivek Tankha and Raj Babbar were among those who rallied behind Sibal, with Sharma asking Gandhi to take strong action against those involved.
Former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh also criticised what he said was an “attack” at the house of Sibal by Congress workers only because he “chose to express views that were not palatable to the party leadership”.
This does not augur well for the party, Singh said, adding that it was unfortunate that the seniors are being “completely sidelined”, which is not good for the party.
Terming the senior Congressmen as “thinkers”, who were important to the future of the party, the former chief minister in a statement said the younger leadership should be promoted to implement the plans, which the senior leaders are best equipped to formulate.
Azad, former leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, also strongly condemned the “orchestrated hooliganism” at Sibal’s residence.
“He (Sibal) is a loyal Congressman fighting for the party both inside and outside Parliament. Any suggestion from any quarter should be welcomed instead of suppressing, hooliganism is unacceptable,” tweeted Azad, who along with Sibal is part of the ‘Group of 23’ which last year had written to Gandhi seeking organisational overhaul of the party.
Chidambaram tweeted that he feels helpless when “we cannot start meaningful conversations within party forums”.
“I also feel hurt and helpless when I see pictures of Congress workers raising slogans outside the residence of a colleague and MP. The safe harbour to which one can withdraw seems to be silence,” he said.
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said, “Orchestrated hooliganism outside Kapil Sibal’s residence last night is not the culture of the Congress.”
“If one has any difference of views, the same should be brought up and discussed at party forum,” he said on Twitter.
Asserting that difference in opinion and perception are integral to a democracy, Sharma, also a part of the G-23, said intolerance and violence is alien to Congress values and culture.
“Shocked and disgusted to hear the news of attack and hooliganism at Kapil Sibal’s house. This deplorable action brings disrepute to the party and needs to be strongly condemned,” Sharma said in a series of tweets.
He asserted that the Congress has a history of upholding freedom of expression. Those responsible must be identified and disciplined, Sharma said.
“Urging Congress president Sonia Gandhi to take cognisance and strong action,” he said in a tweet.
Taking to Twitter, Congress MP from Punjab, Manish Tewari, unequivocally condemned what he said was “orchestrated hooliganism” at Sibal’s residence last night.
“Those who masterminded the assault must bear in mind that he fights for @INCIndia both inside and outside courts of law. You may find his views uncomfortable but that cannot be a license for violence,” Tewari, who is a part of the 23 leaders who wrote to Gandhi last year, said.
In another tweet, he said, “Those who are trying to defend the ‘command performance’ last night. This is what happened @KapilSibal’s house ‘They damaged the car. Stood on top, so it caved in. Threw tomatoes both outside and inside the house’. If this is not hooliganism then what else is it”.
Responding to Tewari’s tweet, Shashi Tharoor, who was part of the leaders who wrote to Gandhi, tweeted, “That is shameful. We all know @KapilSibal as a true Congressman who has fought multiple cases in court for @INCIndia.”
“As a democratic party we need to listen to what he has to say, disagree if you must but not in this way. Our priority is to strengthen ourselves to take on the BJP!” he said.
Also responding to Tewari’s tweet, Congress leader Vivek Tankha tweeted, “Never to a person who has fought and saved so many Congress governments and persons and unmake opposition government.”
People may disagree with him. Even protest. But not damage his car. At least in my life I never encouraged or promoted hooliganism,” Tankha said. Another Congress leader Raj Babbar said, “Don’t unleash mob-power on ideological co-travellers — you will look more pitiful in front of ideological rivals.”
“Is criticising what happened outside Kapil Sibal’s residence not a part of Congress culture,” he asked in a tweet in Hindi.
Soon after he raised questions over the functioning of the Congress, Sibal on Wednesday came under attack from several quarters with party workers also protesting outside his house here.
In the wake of several Congress leaders quitting the party and its Punjab unit in turmoil, Sibal has demanded that an immediate meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) be convened and wondered who in the party was taking decisions in the absence of a full-time president.
Sibal said at a press conference that the G-23 grouping is “not a Jee Huzur 23” and will continue to put forth the views and will continue to repeat the demands.
Carrying ‘Get Well Soon Kapil Sibal’ placards and raising slogans against Sibal, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) workers had protested outside his Jor Bagh residence, saying they were “hurt” by his remarks.
The protesters raised slogans against Sibal, asking him to “leave the party”. A protestor also stood on his car.