New Delhi: Senior Congress leaders have fiercely rallied around party chief Sonia Gandhi after dissenters sent a clear message that the Gandhis should voluntarily move away from the helm.
In an interview Tuesday, disgruntled partyman Kapil Sibal said many prominent leaders may feel “that without the Gandhi family it’s not possible for the Congress to survive”. He countered: “It’s not a point of view that many of us share.”
He said the Gandhis should voluntarily move away because “a body nominated by them will never tell them that they should not continue to hold the reins of power”.
To this, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury retaliated Wednesday: “Kapil Sibal kahan ka neta hain mujhe pata nahi. He advanced because of the Congress party. Things were good when he was a minister in the UPA government, he is feeling bad now when the UPA is not in power.”
Chowdhury dared Sibal to do something on his own: “He should set an example that he can do something without the support of the Congress, and fight for his own ideology. What is the outcome of giving interviews sitting in an AC room?”
Chowdhury also criticised the G23 – a group of 23 leaders who are in favour of internal reforms and collective leadership. He said: “They don’t have a habit of staying out of power. I don’t know what Sibal’s mass base is.”
In his interview, Kapil Sibal said 177 MPs, MLAs and 222 candidates had left the Congress since 2014. “No party had seen such an exodus,” Sibal said, questioning the present leadership.
Senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge accused Sibal of “deliberately trying to weaken the party”. “No one can weaken Sonia Gandhi or the Congress party,” Kharge said. He also said Kapil Sibal may be a good lawyer but he was not a good leader of the party. “Has Sibal ever gone to a village to work for the Congress,” Kharge asked.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, “Sibal is not rooted in Congress culture, he doesn’t know the ABC of Congress.”
Gehlot reminded Sibal that “he did not work hard as other workers do in the Congress culture”. “He got a chance gradually, and with the blessings of Sonia Gandhi and the support of Rahul Gandhi, he got a place in the Union Cabinet directly,” the chief minister said.
He added: “The people of the country want the Gandhi family to keep the Congress united… The country stands with the Gandhi family.”
Kapil Sibal’s explosive interview has certainly raised hackles but there seems to be more trouble ahead for the Gandhis as the dissenters are likely to meet Wednesday to chalk out their plan.
Sources told news agency ANI that other Congress leaders may join this meeting.
The Congress’ electoral prospects are at an all-time low after it was hammered by the opposition in the recently-concluded assembly elections in five states.
Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday asked the chiefs in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand to resign for the “reorganisation of the party”.
Also read: Congress leadership ‘living in cuckoo land’ says Sibal, warns ‘party won’t survive’ without change