Congress leadership has been facing a hard time since the Assembly election results for five states were announced on March 10. With the losing hope of revival, the senior leaders of the party are again coming out with a demand of giving control of the party to someone other than Gandhis. Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, in an interview with the Indian Express, expressed his displeasure over the party leadership’s inability to reach out to the senior leaders or use them properly for reviving the party.
Negligible accountability, acceptability or accessibility
When asked if the results surprised him, Sibal said since 2014, the party has faced multiple defeats, and it has been losing state after state. Leaders close to leadership have been leaving the party, and it is getting more challenging to keep the party together. He said, “It is really interesting to note that since 2014 about 177 MPs and MLAs and 222 candidates have left the Congress.” He further added since the Lok Sabha defeat of 2014, the party has lacked accountability and acceptability. There have been negligible attempts to increase accessibility and reach out to the electorate.
‘The leadership is living in a cuckoo land’
Speaking about the CWC meeting that was held on Monday, Sibal said it had been eight years since the party lost the Lok Sabha elections. If the leadership still needed ‘Chintan shivir’ to find out what went wrong, they are living in cuckoo land. He said when the Congress was formed, the founder was not a Hindu. Everyone came under the umbrella, and power structures were organized. “The President used to change every year. It’s only recently that we have had this long tenure,” he said.
He further claimed prominent party leaders in CWC ‘genuinely’ feel the Congress would not survive without the Gandhis. However, he disagreed with the sentiment and said many leaders think the same. Sibal noted some of the leaders tried to convey to the leadership that the party needed reform in the processes as it would not survive in the current structure.
No more ‘Ghar ki Congress’
Sibal claimed many prominent leaders are not part of CWC. The members of CWC are nominees of the leadership. What they think about the current leadership is different from many non-CWC senior members. He added being a Congress member, but not part of CWC did not mean his or other non-CWC members’ views would not matter.
He said in his personal view he would want ‘sab ki Congress’ and not ‘Ghar ki Congress’. By ‘sab ki Congress’, he meant to bring old Congress members who left and formed their own parties together and fight against BJP. He added some of the Congress leaders and workers think the party would not survive without certain leaders, and it is a challenge.
He further questioned how Rahul Gandhi announced in Punjab that Charanjit Singh Channi would be the face of CM. He said, “Rahul Gandhi went to Punjab and made the announcement that Charanjit Singh Channi will be the Chief Minister. In what capacity did he do that? He is not the president of the party, but he takes all the decisions. He is already the de-facto president.”
‘Suddenly, people close to them become rich’
Sibal said there is no decentralization of the power in Congress. The leadership decides every appointment, including PCCs and DCCs, based on the names given to them. “They don’t have direct contact with them. In this power structure, therefore, the organization is bereft of any vision,” he said.
Sibal further added that at the time of the appointment, many say they would not take perks like official car, residents etc. but they act differently once elected. “They start building palatial houses. Suddenly people close to them become rich,” he added. Sibal said Congress is fighting a battle within and not against the Modi regime. “If you can’t even keep your house in order, how will you fight the Modi regime?” he said.
Leadership do not talk to anyone, says Sibal
Sibal said there was a time when senior members had a say in the selection of the president. In the current situation, one might not expect a Chief Minister to come and tell the leadership to step down, but it had happened in the past as there used to be an open discussion on the issues.
He said not only him, but the leadership had not communicated with stalwarts like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Prithviraj Chavan, Bhupinder Hooda, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari, and Raj Babbar. He added, “If even those minimal reforms consistent with the provisions of the Congress constitution are not accepted, and there is no dialogue, forget about acceptance, then how do we fight the battle against Modi.”
‘Gavaskar, Sachin and Virat retired, so should the leadership’
Giving an example from Cricket, Sibal said Gavaskar, Sachin and Virat all had to retire one day. Their names would remain in golden letters in the cricketing history. “So if men of great excellence also, at some stage, think that it is time to go, then surely, after the debacles that we have seen, the leadership should leave this space for somebody else who will be elected and not nominated. Allow that person to perform,” he added.
Sibal disagreed that the party would not survive without Gandhis at the top. However, he saved himself from saying anything directly against Rahul Gandhi. He said it was ironic that those who believed in the party were not close to the leadership, and those who were close to them were there for personal gains.
Giving the example of Britain, Sibal said if someone loses an election in Western democracies, they do not come back. “Has a leader who has lost in the election ever come back? Name one person in the history of the British Parliament who has lost and has come back. Have they asked the question who after me? They never come back. The same in European democracies,” he said.
Party does not use senior leaders
He said the party has not been using its assets to revive Congress to past glory. “If the Congress party thinks like that, how can that Congress party ever hope to reclaim its past glory?” he questioned. Sibal said while the Gandhis are ‘courteous and nice’ and Sonia Gandhi played a crucial role in bringing the flock together when Sitaram Kesri left, things have not been working in the way they should have been since the party got re-elected to power in 2009 under her leadership.
He said instead of having ‘chintan shivir’, the leadership should reach out to everybody.