New Delhi, August 15: Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday welcomed party chief Sonia Gandhi’s initiative of bringing like-minded political parties together, but urged her to strengthen her own party, saying no Opposition unity is possible without it.
Sibal, however, said he along with other leaders of the “Group of 23”, who had written to the Congress chief for an organisational overhaul, would continue to demand reforms in the grand old party and keep pushing for its strengthening.
“I am happy that Congress president Sonia Gandhi is taking the initiative of bringing about Opposition unity. But our reform agenda has to continue and we will keep pushing for it to strengthen the Congress,” he told PTI.
The former Union minister said he and his party colleagues are ready to support these efforts in order to revive and revitalise the Congress.
He said Gandhi can “jettison” him if he stands in her way, but he would continue to seek strengthening of the Congress for bringing it to the forefront of Opposition unity.
“This is not about me, but about a revival of the Congress and bringing it to the forefront of Opposition unity. Without the Congress being strong, there can be no Opposition unity,” Sibal said.
“If I stand in the way of bringing unity, it does not matter. It is not about me or any of the Group of 23 leaders. You can jettison me and others, but you should strengthen the Congress,” he added.
Sibal said Opposition unity will not come about till the Congress is revived and strengthened.
“This project of Opposition unity will fail if the Congress is not strengthened and rejuvenated. I hope the Congress realises the significance of its primacy,” he said.
Sibal also expressed concern over reforms not taking place in the grand old party, saying, “it is worrisome”. He said the Congress remains without a regular president and it is a public duty of the party to have regular elected office-bearers.
The former Union minister said the time has come for the Congress to put its act together and the party owes it to the people of the country.
He said they need to rejuvenate the party and bring it back as a force to reckon with.
Sibal’s remarks came ahead of the Congress president’s virtual meeting with Opposition leaders on August 20 to bring about more synergy on important issues before the country.
A number of chief ministers of states not ruled by the BJP, including West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray and Tamil Nadu’s M K Stalin, and other Opposition leaders are expected to attend the meeting.
Sibal had hosted a dinner for top Opposition leaders at his residence on August 9, where they agreed to strengthen Opposition unity in their bid to unitedly defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states and in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Recalling the outcome of his dinner meeting with the Opposition leaders, he said, “What emerged from my dinner was a coalition of thoughts and interests focussed on defeating the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.”
Sibal alleged that the BJP has destroyed the foundations of India and all that the country stood for in 1947.
“We need to come together to restore what we have lost since 2014,” he said.
The effort, he said, is to put up a single candidate against the saffron party and defeat it in the elections, but it seems that the roadmap ahead is tough as there are many parties that are against each other at the state level.
The leaders who were present at Sibal’s dinner included RJD’s Lalu Prasad, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Akhilesh Yadav and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, Sanjay Singh of the AAP and TMC leaders Kalyan Banerjee and Derek O’Brien.
Besides, BJD leaders Pinaki Mishra and Amar Patnaik, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and TK Elangovan, RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary, and leaders of the TRS, the TDS and the SAD were also present at the dinner meet. (PTI)