No organizational presence: Now, Chidambaram worries about Congress' future
After Kapil Sibal, another senior leader has expressed concern over Congress' substandard performance in Bihar elections and by-polls, saying that the party lacks organizational presence. Former Finance and Home Minister, P Chidambaram, seen as a Gandhi family loyalist, said that Congress chewed more than it could swallow in Bihar. This month, NDA won Bihar narrowly, and Nitish Kumar was sworn-in as Chief Minister.
While speaking to newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, Chidambaram said the RJD-Congress combine was capable of winning Bihar. "Why we lost despite being so close to victory is something that needs a comprehensive review. Remember, not long ago the Congress had won Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand," he said, adding that even smaller parties like AIMIM and CPI-ML performed better than the grand old party.
In Bihar, Congress contested 70 seats but won merely 19. In sharp contrast, ally RJD won all 75 seats it fielded candidates on. After the results, most political observers said Tejashwi Yadav gave Congress too many seats, which proved fatal for his Chief Ministerial dreams. Seemingly agreeing with them, Chidambaram said Congress fought on more seats than what its organizational strength allowed.
"The Congress was given 25 seats where the BJP or its allies had been winning for 20 years. The Congress should have refused to contest from these seats. The party should have fielded only 45 candidates," Chidambaram said.
The 75-year-old said he was more worried about by-poll results in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka. "These results show that the party either has no organizational presence on the ground or has been weakened considerably," he lamented. On the upcoming polls in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Bengal, and Assam, he said, "Let us see what the results are in these states."
When asked about former party President Rahul Gandhi's opinion that a non-Gandhi should lead the party, Chidambaram replied, "I can't say who will be chosen president in the AICC (All India Congress Committee) meeting. Anyone can contest the polls."
Congress, facing an existential crisis, was belittled when one of its members said the party is not an "effective alternative" for voters. Sibal, who was one of 23 signatories of the letter demanding an overhaul in the leadership, said, "People of the country, not just in Bihar but wherever by-elections were held, obviously don't consider the Congress to be an effective alternative."
"I am a Congressman and will remain a Congressman and hope and pray that Congress provides the alternative to a power structure which has subverted all the values that the nation stands for," Sibal told Indian Express.
Soon after his remarks, Congress members hit back at Sibal. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is the leader in Lok Sabha, urged senior leaders not to indulge in "embarrassing sweeping statements." "If some leaders think that Congress is not the right party for them then they may set up a new party or can join any other party which they think is progressive," he said.