On May 16, Congress heavyweight Kapil Sibal resigned from the party and submitted a Rajya Sabha nomination as an Independent with the Samajwadi Party’s support. “With the help of SP, I filed my nomination as an Independent candidate,” he stated.
“I had resigned from the Congress party on May 16,” Kapil Sibal told reporters, slipping in information that had stayed concealed since the Congress “Chintan Shivir” or strategy meet a week ago.
“I am no longer a senior Congress leader,” he quipped, when bombarded with questions.
Mr Sibal resigned a day after the Congress brainstorming session held to discuss a roadmap for the party’s revival after a series of devastating election defeats. He had been left out of the big meet and was no longer a part of the Congress’ advisory groups.
“I had a deep relationship with the Congress. It was for 30-31 years. This is not a small thing. I joined the Congress because of Rajivji (former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi). You must be thinking, how can one leave the Congress after 31 years. There must be something that my heart must feel. Sometimes, such decisions need to be taken. But my ideology is that of the Congress. I am not far away from the Congress and its ideology. I am with the sentiments of the party,” he said.
“We are all constrained by the fact that we are members of parties and have to abide by the discipline of that party, but it is important to have an independent voice. When the voice of an independent is raised, people will feel that he is not associated with any other party.”
This is the fifth high-profile departure from Congress in the last five months.
This exit, like most in the last two years, comes as little surprise to India’s oldest political party.
Mr Sibal, a renowned lawyer who has represented politicians from all sides of the political spectrum and was once one of the party’s most senior leaders, was the driving force behind the “G-23,” or group of 23 dissenters, who demanded a complete overhaul of the party’s leadership and organization in a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi two years ago.
He has been outspoken and increasingly harsh in his criticism of the Gandhi family’s leadership, particularly Rahul Gandhi. He has also openly advocated for a non-Gandhi to lead the Congress.
Mr. Sibal’s time in the Rajya Sabha ends in July. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh in 2016 as a Congress candidate sponsored by the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party. With only two MLAs in the UP parliament, the Congress is unable to elect anyone to the Rajya Sabha from the state.
In the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly, the Samajwadi Party has 111 MLAs and can send three members to the upper chamber of parliament. The BJP now has 255 members and has the ability to send eight members to the Rajya Sabha.
Mr Sibal filed his candidacy papers in the presence of Akhilesh Yadav, the leader of the Samajwadi Party.
The Samajwadi Party’s decision to back Mr Sibal is considered as a payback for his work as the lawyer for party MP Azam Khan.
Azam Khan was represented by Mr Sibal in the Supreme Court. After two years in prison, the Supreme Court granted Azam Khan interim bail.
Eleven Uttar Pradesh seats will be up for election in the Rajya Sabha next month.
“Kapil Sibal is the first person we have chosen for the Rajya Sabha election. Two more nominations will be announced soon,” Akhilesh Yadav said.
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