As Congress won only 19 out of the 70 seats it contested in the Bihar assembly elections, dissenting voices against the top leadership are being heard again, including from some very key leaders of the party. The internal fighting has come out in open with senior leader Kapil Sibal slamming the top leadership for 'business as usual' attitude and others like Ashok Gehlot and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury warning and attacking him for doing so.
On Thursday, senior leader and former union minister P Chidambaram has also echoed Sibal's opinion and said that election results have shown that Congress has no organisational presence on the ground. Speaking to Dainik Bhaskar, Chidambaram said that the Bihar poll debacle requires a comprehensive review. Citing the performance of AIMIM and CPI(M-L), Chidambaram said that Congress needs to strengthen its organization at the ground level and opined that the party contested more seats than it should have in Bihar. Earlier, Chidambaram's son Karti had urged the party to introspect and act after Kapil Sibal lashed out at the Central leadership.
Sibal, one of the 23 senior Congress leaders who had expressed dissatisfaction with the party's leadership in a letter a few months earlier, again raised probing questions after the debacle in the Bihar Assembly election and the bypolls. Speaking to a news daily, he contended that the people of the country "don't consider Congress to be an effective alternative". The former Union Minister alleged that there was a reluctance to address issues within the party as the Congress Working Committee is a "nominated body".
Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot publicly slammed Kapil Sibal's criticism of the party. According to Gehlot, Sibal talking about Congress' internal issues in the media had "hurt the sentiments of party workers". Recalling that Congress had emerged stronger from various crises such as those seen in 1969, 1977, 1989 and 1996, Gehlot exuded confidence in the party overcoming the current lean phase also. To buttress his point, he highlighted the formation of the UPA government in 2004 under the leadership of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Moreover, in a stinging attack, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that those speaking against the party are free to join another party and Salman Khurshid urged the internal critics to look within themselves for flaws and contended that they should be prepared for a long struggle rather than look for short cuts to regain power, or to air their grievances in public.
It must be noted that dissenting voices had risen in Congress party a few months ago against the backdrop of the fight between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan. Senior Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad had then spoken openly against the Central leadership of the Gandhis, and 23 senior leaders had demanded robust reforms in the party writing a letter to this effect. However, interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was able to quash the rebellion and had assured party members of reviewing the raised demands.
Congress has been in a leadership dilemma since Rahul Gandhi quit as party chief in the post-Lok Sabha 2019 debacle. This led to a barrage of resignations from various posts. Amidst a lot of turmoil with Priyanka Vadra also being considered, Congress finally went back to their safe option and named Sonia Gandhi as its interim chief. Recently, her tenure was again extended. While some loyalists have time and again implored 50-year-old Rahul Gandhi to take back the reins of the party, this has also been met with significant opposition. Moreover, prominent Congress leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Khushbu Sundar have quit the party and joined BJP.
In Bihar, Mahagathbandhan won 110 seats but failed to cross the majority mark and form its government in the state. Congress ally RJD's leader Shivanand Tiwari has blamed Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi for the debacle. However, Rahul loyalists seem to deny - Ex-Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam dismissed the remark by the RJD leader saying it is a trend to blame Rahul Gandhi. Even as revolt brews again, only time will tell if reforms and change in leadership will take place in the grand-old Congress party. On Wednesday, Sonia Gandhi had called for an emergency meeting allegedly to resolve some of the differences and infighting that has consumed the Congress since the Bihar polls. However, the meeting was cancelled 30 mins before it was to begin.