The Congress might expel former union minister Kapil Sibal for his utterances against the leadership, party sources said.
The voices in favour of strict action against Sibal have grown after he attacked the Gandhi family in an interview to a newspaper following the party’s rout in the assembly elections in five states.
As a first step, the Chandni Chowk District Congress Committee has passed a resolution to take action against Sibal, accusing him of anti-party activities. Sibal has been a Lok Sabha member from Chandni Chowk for two terms from 2004 to 2014.
Earlier, Congress veteran and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot attacked Sibal, saying he is not a man of “Congress culture” and didn’t know “the ABCD of Congress.”
“Kapil Sibal isn’t a person from Congress culture. He’s a renowned advocate who entered Congress. He didn’t toil as a worker. Sonia ji and Rahul ji have given him a lot of chances. He does not know the ABCD of Congress, and does not understand the basic spirit of Congress. Congress has made sacrifices for the country before and after independence, Kapil Sibal forgets this,” Gehlot said.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge too was unsparing on the former law minister. Sibal might be a good lawyer but he wasn’t a good leader of the Congress party, he said.
“He never went to any village to work for Congress. He is deliberately trying to weaken the party. No one can weaken Sonia Gandhi or the Congress party,” Kharge said.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury too hit out at Sibal.
“Kapil Sibal kahan ke neta hain mujhe pata nahi. He got many advancements because of the Congress party. Things were good when he was a minister in the UPA govt now when UPA is not in power he is feeling bad,” he said.
“They (G-23) don’t have a habit of staying out of governing power. That is why they’re trying to save themselves while criticising. I don’t know what’s his Sibal’s mass base is,” Chowdhury added.
“Sibal should set an example that he can do something without the support of Congress, fight for his ideology on their own. Otherwise, what is the outcome of just giving interviews while sitting in an AC room,” he said.
The pressure is visibly building up and an action is expected anytime soon unless senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad convinces Congress president Sonia Gandhi that Sibal had not attacked the leadership.
Azad is meeting Gandhi on Thursday to discuss the proposals that emerged at a meeting of 18 leaders at his residence on Wednesday.
Apart from Azad, those who attended the meeting were Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, Prithviraj Chavan, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar, PJ Kurien, Preneet Kaur, Sandeep Dikshit, MA Khan, Kuldeep Sharma, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Vivek Tankha and Raj Babbar. Former Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela was also present.
Is a compromise formula being worked out other G-23 leaders?
The Congress leadership is likely to accommodate some of the G-23 leaders in the party, giving them some key organisational responsibilities, the sources said.
That a group within the G-23 was upset with Sibal for his remarks against the Gandhis became evident after he was forced to cancel the dinner meeting at his residence and shift the venue to Azad’s house.
Many leaders, including former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, had expressed reservation to attending the meeting at Sibal’s residence and asked Azad to hold it at his house.
Hooda’s son Deepender had accompanied Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on many trips to Uttar Pradesh and there was a buzz that he might be appointed the Haryana Congress president very soon.
Similarly, there were speculation that Azad might be given the charge of Karnataka as general secretary and Anand Sharma might be considered for another term in the Rajya Sabha.
However, there seems to be a big question mark on the possibility of rehabilitation of dissident leaders since last night’s meeting.