Six years ago, Sonia Gandhi had brought Sibal in the Rajya Sabha by sacrificing family friend late Satish Sharma. Sonia Gandhi had then told Sharma that Sibal, a noted lawyer, had to be accommodated in his place as the party was fighting several court cases.
New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s resignation from the party to contest a Rajya Sabha seat as an Independent supported by the Samajwadi Party signals the end of the group of 23 (G-23), the pressure group that wanted wide-ranging changes in the party structure. In other words, it is a victory for the Gandhi family loyalists.
Sibal paid the price for openly criticising the leadership of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi while seeking structural changes to rejuvenate the Congress. The senior most leader of the group, Ghulam Nabi Azad and his deputy Anand Sharma have been placated by accommodating them in the newly-created political affairs group of the party. Azad is also likely to get a Rajya Sabha ticket, most probably from Rajasthan, to ensure his return to Parliament. Anand Sharma , who is retiring from the Upper House soon, is unlikely to be fielded for another Rajya Sabha term. Their colleague Mukul Wasnik finds a berth in the party’s task force group that is meant to oversee preparations for the 2024 parliamentary elections. None of them, barring Sibal, had directly attacked the Gandhi family leadership.
Six years ago, Sonia Gandhi had brought Sibal in the Rajya Sabha by sacrificing family friend late Satish Sharma. Sonia Gandhi had then told Sharma that Sibal, a noted lawyer, had to be accommodated in his place as the party was fighting several court cases. The indication was towards the National Herald case directly linking the Gandhi family. Although there was no pressure from the party to resign, Sibal knew he had no chance for another Rajya Sabha term from the party, having been singled out as a rebel.
The remaining influential members of the G-23, namely Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor, are in no position to quit as both of them are Lok Sabha MPs. Another senior member of the group, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, is said to have softened his stance after nomination of his protégé as the Haryana Congress chief apart from retaining him as the leader of Opposition in the Assembly.
By all accounts, it could be a temporary truce between the top leadership of the party and the dissident group. The upcoming elections in the AICC are likely to throw more surprises and shocks to the group, it is surmised. Even now, Azad and Anand Sharma are largely inconsequential as they happen to get only advisory role in the political affairs group.
The message is clear: Dissidence will not be tolerated in the 137-year old Congress party where only loyalists prosper. Rahul Gandhi is said to be getting ready to take over the reins of the party as Congress President yet again whenever the AICC elections are held. Nehru-Gandhi loyalists are on the job to ensure that his return is smooth. In other words, he would have no challenger.
Rahul Gandhi is in no tearing hurry. Once he assumes the role of the party president again, he is expected to slowly prepare his own team of leaders for a long haul.
(Devsagar Singh is a senior journalist.)