Some senior Congress leaders including Kapil Sibal have called for introspection after the party's dismal performance in the recently held Bihar assembly polls, after which the ruling NDA returned to power in the state despite the main member of the grand opposition alliance, Rashtriya Janata Dal, putting up a strong show and emerging as the single largest party. Quite a few leaders from the RJD as well as the Congress have blamed the grand old party's below-par performance for the opposition alliance missing the majority mark in the Bihar assembly elections.
In an interview to a newspaper, Sibal was critical of the Congress leadership after the party's poor poll show in Bihar assembly elections. Sibal complained about the lack of introspection by the Congress in the last six years. Sibal was part of a group of 23 senior Congress leaders, who had written to party chief Sonia Gandhi in August, making suggestions to revive the organisation.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot criticised Sibal, saying his comments have hurt the sentiments of the party workers across the country. In a series of tweets, Gehlot said the party has seen various crises, including in 1969, 1977, 1989 and 1996, but has come out stronger every time due to its ideology, programmes, policies and the firm belief in its leadership. "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," he said.
Amid questions being raised by some Congressmen over the party's Bihar poll performance, senior leader Salman Khurshid took a dig at such party colleagues calling them "doubting Thomases" who suffer periodic "pangs of anxiety". In a Facebook post that started with an Urdu couplet of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, former union minister Khurshid, who is among the leaders considered close to the Gandhi family, said if the mood of the electorate is resistant to the liberal values the party has espoused and cherished, it should be prepared for a long struggle rather than look for short cuts to get back into power.
Tariq Anwar, party's general secretary and a veteran leader from Bihar, had earlier this week acknowledged that there were shortcomings due to which the Congress performed worse than other 'Mahagathbandhan' constituents in the Bihar polls and asserted that the high command was serious about introspection as well as a thorough analysis of the results. He 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.
He 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."
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.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam 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.
Members of a top Congress panel, which was set up to advise party chief Sonia Gandhi on crucial issues, met on Tuesday evening and discussed important organisational matters, sources told PTI. This was the first time the six-member panel met since it was formed by Gandhi in August as part of a party reshuffle after a group of 23 Congress leaders wrote to her seeking party's overhaul. Gandhi and senior party leader Ahmed Patel, who is unwell, were not part of the discussions. Those who attended the meeting included AK Antony, Randeep Surjewala and Mukul Wasnik.
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.