After Sibal’s salvo, Chidambaram’s broadside: Cong weakened on ground

Former finance minister says party may have contested more seats than its organisational strength in Bihar and should have been judicious in contesting in BJP strongholds

Chidambaram said it is still to be seen how the party performs in the upcoming polls in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam. | File Photo: PTI

The dismal performance of the Congress in the recent Bihar elections has amplified voices of retrospection and criticism within the party more than ever.

Following veteran leader Kapil Sibal’s stinging remark on the party’s failure as an “effective alternative,” former finance minister P Chidambaram has said that the Bihar polls show that the Congress has no presence on the ground or has considerably weakened.

In an interaction with Dainik Bhaskar, Chidambaram, commented that the party may have been too ambitious in contesting all the 70 seats it was offered in the Bihar Assembly polls.

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Congress was part of the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan which also included Left parties. While the Left parties won 16 seats, and RJD emerged as the single-largest party with 75 seats, Congress could bag only 19 constituencies in the 243-Assembly. Its poor performance helped the NDA win by a wafer-thin majority of 125 seats against the Grand Alliance’s 110.

“I am more worried about the by-poll results in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. These results show that the party either has no organisational presence on the ground or has been weakened considerably,” Chidambaram said.

“In Bihar, the RJD-Congress had a chance of winning. Why we lost despite being so close to victory is something that needs comprehensive review. Remember, not long ago the Congress had won Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand,” he said.

Chidambaram said the Congress could have declined to contest in 25 (of the 70 seats) seats where the BJP has been having a strong hold for the past 20 years and fielded candidates only in the rest 45 seats.

He, however, said it is still to be seen how the party performs in the upcoming polls in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam.

In an interview with Indian Express, Congress leader Kapil Sibal had commented that results of the Bihar Assembly polls show that the people no longer see the party as an “effective alternative” while also accusing the leadership of turning a blind eye to problems facing the party.

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Sibal was among the 23 senior leaders who recently wrote to party president Sonia Gandhi, urging for sweeping reforms in the party including a stable and visible leadership.

The leader said even the time of introspection has passed and that it’s high time the leadership comes out of denial and accepts the reasons for the party’s failure.