Two years after rebelling against the leadership of the Gandhis, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday made public his decision to quit the Congress while filing nomination for the coming Rajya Sabha elections as an independent candidate, supported by the Samajwadi Party (SP).
“I had tendered my resignation on May 16,” he told reporters in Lucknow, adding, “I have filed my nomination as an independent candidate. It is important to be an independent voice in Parliament. If an independent voice speaks up then people will believe it is not linked to any political party”.
Accompanying him for the filing of nomination papers, SP chief and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said, “... We hope that the questions in the country, such as rising unemployment, inflation, failing law and order, our borders are not safe...on several such big issues Sibal ji will be able to present the SP’s and his views”.
Mr. Sibal told The Hindu that he would not talk about the Congress anymore as he is no longer in the party but added that he would continue to strive for Opposition unity.
‘Want to move forward’
“There comes a time a when you want to break free from diktats of a political party and become independent. I want to move forward and look to the future,” he said, adding, “It will certainly be my effort to bring the Opposition together ahead of the 2024 polls to take on the BJP”.
Mr. Sibal’s is the third high profile exit that happened soon after the Udaipur Chintan Shivir and followed former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar’s departure from the Congress to join the BJP and Gujarat working president Hardik Patel’s exit.
With an air of uncertainty around who will be Congress’ nominees for the Rajya Sabha elections, there is speculation about more leaving the party.
In the last few months, several senior leaders such as Ashwani Kumar, R.P.N Singh and Shatrughan Sinha have quit the party.
Member of G-23
Among the most high-profile Ministers in the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance government between 2004 and 2014, Mr. Sibal joined the G-23 or the ginger group that wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi in August 2020, asking for “collective leadership and internal reforms”.
The high-profile lawyer, who once defended the Congress in various courts and often in the media as a Minister, questioned the party’s style of functioning as it continued to suffer repeated electoral setbacks in Assembly elections after two consecutive Lok Sabha defeats.
The tipping point came last September when he told reporters at a press conference that “the Congress did not have a full-time president and none knew who was taking important decisions without any accountability”.
Though Mr. Sibal did not spell it out, the comment was seen as an attack on former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who, many believed, was taking decisions in the party despite stepping down from the post in May 2019.
Hours later, party workers of Chandni Chowk, a constituency that Mr. Sibal represented earlier, threw “tomatoes and eggs” at his residence.
While the leadership had reached out to G-23 in separate meetings, Mr. Sibal carefully avoided them, including the three-day Udaipur Chintan Shivir that was meant to brainstorm the Congress’ revival.
(With inputs from Omar Rashid in Lucknow).