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Gandhis Tried To Patch Things Up With All G-23 Leaders Except One – Kapil Sibal

Kapil Sibal on Wednesday, 25 May, said that he resigned from the Congress on 16 May.

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Edited By :Saundarya Talwar

(This story was originally published on 25 March 2022. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives in the backdrop of Kapil Sibal's resignation from the Congress party.)

The Congress' leadership appears to be ready for a rapprochement with the group of dissenting leaders, with the exception of one – Rajya Sabha MP and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal.

In the past few days, Congress President Sonia Gandhi personally met several leaders from the group of leaders collectively labelled G-23 due to the 23 signatories who wrote a letter expressing concern over the party's functioning in 2020.

In the last one week, Sonia Gandhi met Ghulam Nabi Azad on 18 March, and Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, and Vivek Tankha on 22 March. She also reached out to Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Prithviraj Chavan for a meeting. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi had already met Hooda last week, barely a day after some of the G-23 leaders with a few new additions issued a statement calling for "inclusive decision making."

After meeting Rahul Gandhi, Bhupinder Singh Hooda met Ghulam Nabi Azad.

We look at three things regarding the Congress' reconciliation efforts:

  1. What's driving the rapprochement between the Gandhis and a major chunk of the G-23 leadership?

  2. Why is Sibal being singled out?

  3. What lies ahead?

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What's Driving the Rapprochement in the Congress?

One of the members of the G-23 told The Quint on the condition of anonymity, "We want the same thing – a stronger Congress that can deal with the present political challenges in this country. The media calls us rebels. We are not rebels. We just want to improve the way the party is functioning."

There has also been a thaw from the side of the party leadership.

The softening of stances had been taking place for some time with a number of G-23 leaders being absorbed in party committees even after their 'letter'.

The defeat in the recently concluded Assembly elections seems to have given a fresh push to the Gandhis to unite the party once again.

"Rival parties want the Congress to appear as a divided house. This harmed us in states like Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Goa and it can harm us nationally too. That's why the leadership's efforts to reach out to these leaders is important," said an MP from a southern state.

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Why is Sibal Being Singled Out?

It seems that Sibal is being singled out for attacks.

A variety of leaders – Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, MPs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Manickam Tagore – have attacked the lawyer-turned-politician in the past few days.

So, why has Sibal – and not any of the other leaders – become a target?

The reason is that unlike most of the other G-23 members who mainly speak of reform, Sibal has explicitly called for the Gandhis to quit the Congress' leadership.

"Gandhis should step aside, give another leader a chance," he had said about a week ago, which triggered angry responses from Congress leaders.

In September 2021, Sibal's house was also attacked allegedly by angry Congress workers after he questioned the party leadership.

There's a perception in the party that Sibal is actively working towards a Congress and larger Opposition formation minus the Gandhis.

In August 2021, Sibal had thrown a big dinner attended by several leaders from the Congress, allied parties like the DMK and RJD and also non-Congress Opposition parties like TMC, AAP, SAD, BJD, YSRCP, TRS, and TDP among others.

Through the dinner, Sibal did try to give an indication of his connections across party lines within the Opposition.

The case being made through this is that the Gandhis are a stumbling block towards Opposition unity and the Congress should consider a leadership change if it has to lead a united Opposition fight against the BJP.

Whether Sibal has the political heft to pull off something like this is a different matter altogether.

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What Lies Ahead?

It would be clear in a few weeks if the Congress leadership is able to win back all the other G-23 leaders minus Sibal and whether this would involve accommodating some of them in the upcoming Rajya Sabha vacancies.

The other factor would be the extent to which the party manages to take along the 'dissenters' in the decision making of the Congress in the next few weeks.

The slightly more long-term question would be around the party's internal elections that are scheduled to take place later this year. Will Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi Vadra contest? Or will they support another loyalist? Will Sibal or any of the other dissenting leaders force a contest by throwing their hat in the ring?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Congress   Rahul Gandhi   Sonia Gandhi 

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