Sources said the committee is likely to discuss the Bihar elections and the sub-par performance of Congress, where it won 19 of the 70 seats it contested, as part of the opposition alliance led by RJD, among other issues. The panel, assigned to deliberate on day-to-day affairs of the party to help the chief, was formed as part of the AICC reshuffle done in September after a stormy CWC meeting which discussed the controversial letter by 23 senior leaders questioning drift in the organisation and demanding elections to the post of the party president besides advocating collective leadership.
After a brief lull, former telecom minister Kapil Sibal again attacked the leadership for being in denial and demanded that the party accept that it is in decline and take help of experienced leaders to devise a strategy for revival. The ranks of discontented leaders appear to be growing from August when the G-23 missive was sent. On Monday, Karti Chidambaram, son of P Chidambaram and a Lok Sabha MP, backed Sibal’s comments by tweeting that it was time for Congress to “introspect, ideate, consult and act”. A member of G-23 and Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha, too, backed Sibal by saying it was an attempt to “save democracy” by saving Congress. “Time to act is now or tomorrow may be too late,” Tankha said.
However, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot slammed Sibal, saying, “There was no need for Sibal to mention our internal issue in media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country.”
Though held to his personal views, RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari’s comments on Rahul Gandhi’s slack campaign and Congress’s propensity to seek more seats than it can deliver were reminders that allies may well see the party as a drag rather than a force multiplier.
Sibal said the Bihar elections as well as bypolls in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh show that Congress as an alternative was rejected by voters. He said time for introspection was over and solutions were known and the leadership should call a discussion with experienced leaders to put in place correctives for revival. He chided the party for sticking to business as usual and warned that the decline will continue if not addressed.
Sibal said the letter by G-23 was not liked by the leadership, which instead of taking it as constructive criticism and call a discussion, used it to attack the letter writers.
A member of the dissident group said senior leaders from Madhya Pradesh were miffed with the way things were being run in the party as also some from Punjab. “More and more people are contacting us,” he said.
If their ranks swell, a vocal call, if not another letter, for a CWC meeting or for a special discussion to address their concerns can be heard in the coming weeks. “Introspection and discussion with us is a must,” a former UPA minister said.
The AICC refused to react to Sibal’s remarks. However, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said it was not proper to blame the leadership for every defeat and the dissident leaders should forward constructive suggestions in the party fora.
“It would have been better if they had tried to go and help candidates or the party in states where elections were held,” he said.