Knives are out in Congress; Sibal, Tharoor and Azad all have issues with Gandhis

New Delhi: Every rebel has a past and why not! True revolts have unfolded in the Congress party, or is it the same good old stage-managed drama? In the ultimate analysis, the Sonia Gandhi-Rahul ‘mother-son’ duo has kept control on the party management.

The so called ‘dissenters’ – 23 of them and some who were part of the Darbari team for decades – have got a snub when the Congress Working Committee (CWC) resolution at the end of seven-hour long meet on Monday cautioned them clearly, “No one will be allowed to weaken the Congress”.

Sympathising with the dissidents, Sanjay Jha, who was suspended recently for calling for inner party democracy, summed up the crystal clear ‘hesitation’ of the Congress leadership to diagnose the malady. “For 6 years, we are waiting for the ” right time” to discuss revival of the Congress. Seriously? 52, 560 hours have gone,” Jha tweeted.

But let us take a few ‘dissidents’ or the ‘Letter writers’. Kapil Sibal, one of the signatories, raised the pitch of a war on Monday afternoon but it required just a tele call from Rahul Gandhi and he withdrew the tweet. Rest of the team members were also inside the shell.

Take the clock back to 2019 – February! Kapil Sibal made an appearance in the Supreme Court premises alongside Anil Ambani even as his Rahul Gandhi, then the ‘unquestionable’ Congress president, had been attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “favouring” Ambani (younger son of Dhirubhai Ambani) in the Rafale deal. Ambanis for decades had friendship with Congress leaders including the likes of Kapil Sibal and also top brass such as Pranab Mukherjee and Indira Gandhi herself.

Sibal had done it earlier too. A section of Congress leaders admitted that when Modi has likes of Kapil Sibal and Manishankar Aiyar as his ‘friends’, the BJP could be sitting pretty happy
smiling around.

This was in 2017 during the peak of electioneering in Gujarat – where the Congress did put up a stiff fight and almost ousted the saffron party in its own bastion.

While Aiyar rhetoric of ‘neech admi’ gave the BJP a major arsenal vis-a-vis Gujarati pride and Modi’s popularity in his own home state, Sibal stunned his party and also the BJP.

Amid campaigning for the Gujarat assembly polls, Sibal had urged the Supreme Court (in 2017) to ‘defer’ the hearing in the Ayodhya title suit until after 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

True, the Congress party was left distancing itself from Sibal, but damage was done as PM Modi and BJP plunged into the battle making Ram temple one of the election issues for Hindu voters of Gujarat. Sibal was representing the Sunni Waqf Board in the court.

Prior to that even in 2011 during the UPA days of power, Sibal as the Telecom minister came up with his logic of “zero loss” as against the talk of Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss in the 2G spectrum sale as articulated by the CAG. Such a statement from the then Minister only gave the ‘2G scam’ new turns and twists in the entire game only
harming the reputation of the Manmohan Singh regime.

Sources said Rahul Gandhi had sounded his ‘displeasure’ everytime Sibal committed those goof ups.

The Gandhi family

Next let us take Ghulam Nabi Azad, the man who was part of ‘Sonia team’ when the infamous coup ousted Sitaram Kesri from the AICC.

Azad, who also became Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at the directives of Sonia Gandhi, is apparently upset as his detractors are all set to make Mallikarjun Kharge the new Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

Azad represents Jammu and Kashmir and his term in the Upper House ends on February 15, 2021 as well. In the absence of the state legislature in Jammu and Kashmir now, Azad is not sure when and how he will enter the Rajya Sabha yet again. By February, Azad will be completing five terms as a member of the House of Elders.

Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda feels he has been cut to size in Haryana politics. He was even planning to quit the party prior to last year’s assembly polls in the state.

Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor more often displays an independent mind.

But these at times create problems for the party. Officially, the Congress party did not want to oppose the Triple Talaq Bill at the introductory stage itself. But suave Tharoor did exactly that in Lok Sabha last year.

Both Rahul Gandhi and Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury were critical of Tharoor’s stance. But yet again a damage was done. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad quickly targeted Sonia Gandhi and said: “A woman leader, Sonia Gandhi ji, is the leader of Congress party, yet Congress takes an anti-women position in the Lok Sabha”.

In 2009 itself, as the Minister of State for External Affairs, Tharoor had to apologise for his ‘cattle class’ and ‘out of solidarity with all our holy cows’ tweet. Even the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was annoyed with him.

Of course, Tharoor had to quit as Minister later on April 19, 2010 over the ‘IPL -Kochi franchise’ row.

Tharoor again made news when he backed Jairam Ramesh and Abhishek Singhvi for openly stating that it was wrong to “demonise” Modi.

“I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs,” Tharoor had tweeted. The former UN official is said to have played major role in drafting and enlisting signatures of party colleagues in the letter to Sonia Gandhi.

Both Tharoor and Manish Tewari as Lok Sabha members – after 2019 polls – had hoped of getting ‘important’ positions in parliamentary politics. Instead, Sonia Gandhi reposed faith in Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, a ‘not so articulate’
leader from West Bengal.

After missing floor leader post, both were apparently eyeing crucial chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee but that also went to Adhir Chowdhury.

Sandeep Dikshit, two-time Congress MP from Delhi, also recently said senior leaders (perhaps those close to Sonia and Rahul) were not in favour of holding elections for a new party president as they all were “scared” that someone from the ‘rival camp’ could occupy the key post.

About the Author:

Nirendra Dev is senior Journalist. He is a longtime northeast watcher and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.