New Delhi, Nov 16 (PTI) Days after the Congress suffered another electoral setback in Bihar, voices of discontent within the party resurfaced with a section of leaders calling for action and introspection.
Calls for reform and accountability for the Bihar polls debacle, however, invited quick rebuttals from the party which fielded veteran leader Ashok Gehlot to say that the Congress has always sprung back from crisis.
Gehlot's assertions followed former minister Kapil Sibal's public criticism of the Congress leadership and his remarks that the time of introspection was over and people no longer saw the party as an effective alternative.
Sibal's open call for reform in the Congress comes close on the heels of 23 party leaders writing to party president Sonia Gandhi for leadership change and organisational overhaul. Sibal himself was part of the group of 23 leaders.
Gehlot came out in strong defence of the Congress and Sonia Gandhi, saying the Congress is still the only party that can keep the nation united.
Ticking off Sibal for going public over the party's internal issues, Gehlot said, 'There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to mention our internal issue in Media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country.' 'Congress has seen various crises including (in) 1969, 1977, 1989 and later in the 1996, but every-time we came out stronger due to our ideology, programs, policies and firm belief in party leadership. We have improved with each and every crisis and also formed UPA government in 2004 under the able leadership of Soniaji, we shall overcome this time too,' the chief minister said.
Sibal, a former union minister, tagged his media interview and tweeted, 'We are yet to hear on recent polls... Maybe Congress leadership thinks it should be business as usual.' The Congress won 19 out of the 70 seats it contested in Bihar as part of the RJD-led grand alliance. The opposition alliance ended up with 110 seats, while the NDA retained power bagging 125 seats in the 243-member assembly.
Countering Sibal, Gehlot said, 'There are various reasons for electoral loses. But each time rank and file of the Congress Party has shown undivided and firm belief in the party leadership and that is why we came out of it stronger and united after every crises. Even today, Congress is the only party which can keep this Nation united and take it forward on the path of comprehensive development.' Backing Sibal, Congress Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha said it is time to act now, else it will be too late. He also said that for democracy to survive, the Congress has to survive. Tankha was also a part of the 23 leaders who had sought overhaul in the party.
'Kapil ji is an iconic lawyer and hard core congress personality. Together and individually we have fought countless battles and continue to fight ag BJP shenanigans. For our democracy to survive Congress has to survive. Time to act is now or tomorrow may be too late,' Tankha tweeted while tagging Sibal's interview.
After the party's poor show in Bihar polls, Karti Chidambaram also pitched for introspection and asked for an internal discussion on the losses.
Tagging a tweet by Sibal on his interview, Karti, son of former union minister P Chidambaram, said: 'It's time we introspect, ideate, consult and act.' Earlier, RJD leader Sivanand Tiwari also raised questions on the Congress, saying the party had 'shackled' the 'Mahagathbandhan' and its performance is helping the BJP.
'Congress shackled the 'Mahagathbandhan' with chains in the assembly elections. It contested 70 seats but did not hold even 70 rallies. Rahul Gandhi visited Bihar on three days and addressed two rallies a day. Priyanka Gandhi was not seen at all. When electioneering was at its peak, he was picnicking with Priyanka Gandhi in Shimla,' Tiwari said.
The Congress reacted sharply to Tiwari's criticism with its in-charge in Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil saying, 'Mr Tiwari wants to weaken the grand alliance and save the fragile NDA government in Bihar. RJD leadership should take note of this betrayer, otherwise damage would be done to those parties which are united ideologically and the people of Bihar. Shivanand Tiwari has switched sides again and again and was a JDU MP. It is unsurprising that his loyalty still seems to be with JDU.' Congress national general secretary Tariq Anwar, who had called for 'deep introspection' following the party's abysmal performance in the Bihar polls, defended Rahul Gandhi, saying the leader of a national party cannot be expected to devote time and energy to a state poll like the leader of a regional outfit.
'First of all, Shivanand Tiwari is not an authorised spokesperson for the RJD. Also, he should realise that Congress is a national party while the RJD is a regional entity. The leader of a national party cannot be expected to devote time to a state election like a regional leader would,' he said.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam has also demanded that party leaders who were responsible for taking decisions in Bihar polls should be held accountable for the dismal show, but defended Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi only went to campaign for the party but was not responsible for the decisions taken in Bihar, Nirupam added.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi in a tweet took a veiled dig at Narendra Modi over reports that there has been a 230 per cent increase in the wealth of industrialist Gautam Adani after he became prime minister. PTI SKC SMN SMN