Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal has been critical to the party leadership following the poor performance in the Bihar Assembly elections and bypolls. In an interview to The Indian Express, Sibal said that people don't consider the grand old party as an alternative. A former Union minister and a noted Supreme Court lawyer, Sibal said that he even questioned the functioning of the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision making body of the organisation.
"The people of the country, not just in Bihar but wherever by-elections were held, obviously don’t consider the Congress to be an effective alternative. This is one conclusion. After all, the alternative in Bihar was the RJD. We lost all the by-elections in Gujarat," he said, adding that the party didn't even win a single seat in the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat.
Referring to CWC member Tariq Anwar's suggestion that ‘I hope the Congress introspects’, Sibal said, "If for six years the Congress has not introspected what hope do we have for introspection now?"
In the Bihar Assembly election, the Congress appeared to be the weakest link in the grand alliance of opposition parties. The party failed to put up a strong fight and restricted the alliance from gaining majority in the 243-member House. The Congress won 19 of the 70 seats it contested.
According to Sibal, the Congress needs to discover itself. He said that if "we are not able to recognise our shortcomings, then even the electoral process will not lead to the desired results". Sibal then called for holding elections to CWC.
"There is a reluctance because the CWC is a nominated body," he said. "Democratic processes must be adopted and embraced even in the constitution of the CWC, which is reflected in the provisions of the Congress’s constitution itself. You don’t expect nominated members to start questioning and raise their concerns about the reasons for the constant decline of the Congress in elections after elections."
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He said that there has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for a dialogue by the leadership. The former Union minister added that since there is no forum to "express my views, I am constrained to express them publicly".
"... we need to do several things at several levels - organisationally, articulation in the media in whatever form, putting up people who the people want to listen to, providing an active, thoughtful leadership who can articulate with a lot of circumspection," he said.
Referring to the Congress's abysmal performance in Bihar, he said, "It is terrible news. For a long time, we have not been an effective alternative in Bihar anyway. We have not been an alternative in Uttar Pradesh for more than 25 years. These are big states."
"So where we were an alternative the people of that state have not reposed their confidence in the Congress in the manner expected by us. So the time for introspection is over. We know the answers. The Congress must be brave and willing to recognise them."
To a question whether the Congress leadership is taking it as business as usual, he said, "...I have not heard the leadership tell me anything. So I don’t know. I only hear voices which surround the leadership. That is all I know. We are yet to hear from the Congress party their views on our recent performance in Bihar and in the by-elections. Maybe they think all is well and that it should be business as usual."
Sibal and party veteran Ghulam Nabi Aza were among 23 Congress leaders who had written a "dissent letter" in August. The letter had triggered a massive turmoil within the party with leaders being divided into two camps.