New Delhi: Now that senior leader Kapil Sibal has parted ways with the Congress and filed his nomination for the Rajya Sabha as an independent candidate supported by the Samajwadi Party (SP), all eyes are on who will be the next.
The fact that Sibal, who had become persona non grata in the Congress ever since his repeated outbursts targeting the Gandhi family and Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, was on his way out, was the worst kept secret in political circles. Now it is the fate of some others, especially those part of the disgruntled group christened G-23 by the media, that would be of interest.
While Sibal did meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi earlier this month, sources told India Ahead, the leadership didn’t seem very keen to offer him a deal that would have allowed him to continue within the party.
“Kapil Sibal has been openly working against the interests of the party and has also been casting aspersions on the capabilities of the leadership. It was not acceptable since he was not a tall leader with any real grassroots support. That is why it was felt that no attempt should be made to get him not to walk out by offering him a Rajya Sabha nomination,” said a Congress leader.
The same person said the leadership was “aware” of some other leader holding negotiations with other parties, especially the BJP.
“But, the prevailing feeling is that whoever is leaving to join other parties should not be stopped. Even if we somehow manage to persuade them to stay back, eventually, these people will leave,” this leader said.
He also disclosed that in cases where the party leadership feels a leader deserves a second chance, he or she will be given one, even given a Rajya Sabha seat.
“There is a limit to how much the party will forgive. In Sibal’s case, he had crossed the Lakshman Rekha. But in the case of some other senior leaders who are also members of this so-called G-23, some could be accommodated in the Rajya Sabha. You will see,” he said.
The names being mentioned in this regard include former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma.
The party leadership is also of the view that the forthcoming elections to fill the 57 Rajya Sabha seats in 15 states will, apart from establishing whether the BJP-led NDA manages to secure a stranglehold over the House of Elders, also define who controls the Congress.
More importantly, it will decide who is actually a Congress leader – one who is ready to make sacrifices or those whose only interest is a Rajya Sabha seat.
Most Congress leaders acknowledge that with the party’s fortunes dwindling and its prominent leaders making a beeline for greener pastures, especially the BJP, the Congress is fighting a losing battle to stay relevant while questions about Rahul Gandhi’s leadership capabilities refuse to fade away or settle in his favour.