Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s recent remarks that the people of the country, in Bihar and where bypolls were held do not consider the party to be “an effective alternative” has created a storm.
He had also said that reluctance to address issues was because the Congress Working Committee was “a nominated body”, and cited the Bihar election results to call for “experienced minds, hands and those who understand political realities”, prompting Congress leaders such as Ashok Gehlot, Salman Khurshid, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Harish Rawat to criticise him.
India Today TV consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to Kapil Sibal, also among the 23 leaders who earlier wrote a letter to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi demanding sweeping changes in the party, over the raging controversy. Excerpts from an interview.
Q: The letter was interpreted as a rebellion against the Gandhi family. Reacting to your recent remarks on the party, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said you should have raised these issues on a political forum. How do you respond?
A: Which party forum? I’m not part of the Congress Working Committee… I stand by my comments that the Congress is not an effective Opposition at the moment to the BJP. I am only stating the facts after the recent election results. How can you be an effective Opposition when we don’t even have a full-time president for 18 months, when we don’t have even a conversation in the party on why we are losing… I am not rebelling against the Gandhi family.
Q: Leader of Opposition Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said you should have been involved in the Bihar election or formed your party…
A: I don’t want to comment on what Adhir has said. Bengal elections are coming. He should use his energy to show that the Congress is a force in Bengal. There is a list of star campaigners. The leader of Opposition doesn’t know that. I wish I was on that list. I could have been asked to go to Bihar even if I was not on that list.
Q: Salman Khurshid has talked about “period pangs of anxiety”…
A: Today, Congress workers cannot go out of their homes. The question they face is: what has happened to your party? What about their sentiments? My sentiments have also been hurt. I’m talking about the sentiments of millions of Congress workers. I’m not challenging anybody. We know change will not happen tomorrow. We lost 2014. We lost 2019. Change will not happen because of [internal] elections. We have to go to the people… and tell them what the Congress ideology is.
Q: You’re not calling for a change in the Congress party leadership?
If the leader says… if Rahul Gandhi says he doesn’t want to be the Congress president, how am I calling for a change in the party leadership?
Q: But he’s still driving the party…
A: Because people look up to him. This is not about individuals but about saving the country and its democracy from the political and economic oligarchs. My loyalty is to my country not to an individual. I will continue to raise questions till a conversation is started. Let Adhir worry about Bengal instead of targeting me. Let Ashok Gehlot worry about the sentiments of Congress workers every time we lose.