Senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal on Friday admitted there was a division in the party on moving the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in April, The Indian Express reported.

When Opposition parties finally submitted a notice to Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairperson Venkaiah Naidu, the motion was rejected.

Sibal said that after four senior Supreme Court judges held an unprecedented press conference in January, and declared that “democracy is in peril” in India, the Congress could not have just sat back and done nothing. Sibal was speaking at a panel discussion after the launch of his book Shades of Truth on Friday in Delhi.

Sibal said if there were apprehensions, it was the “duty of every right-thinking party to find out why”. The former Union minister said all that the party wanted was an inquiry.

Chidambaram, however, said the motion was “not likely to pass even the first hurdle, and you know what the first hurdle was”, referring to Naidu rejecting the motion. “I subscribed to the view that it would be a futile exercise that won’t pass the first hurdle,” he said. “As I predicted, the effort failed at the first hurdle,” he said.

Sibal defended the impeachment motion saying the party “knew it may not pass the first muster”. “Yet we went ahead with it…we wanted to make a point: even if we are in minority, if something goes wrong at that level we will take it up.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said there was a “very, very damaging delay” of three months between the press conference by the Supreme Court judges and the Congress moving for impeachment. He said many obstacles that surfaced could have been avoided if the Congress had moved “when the iron was hot”.

Lok Sabha Elections

During the panel discussion, key Opposition leaders also said the Indian elections are based on ideologies and not personalities, and stressed that the 2019 General Elections will be a “Modi vs India” affair, reported IANS. Former Janata Dal (United) member Sharad Yadav and Trinamool Congress leader Chandan Mitra were also part of the panel.

Leaders agreed that “a very broad-based strategic coalition” would be formed in “at least 25 states” to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. Chidambaram said the BJP failed to attract the masses in several states like Punjab, West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha despite winning a majority during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Sibal said Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, both currently led by the BJP and allies, would have a decisive role to play in the next elections. Sibal also said Congress President Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that he is ready to take on Modi, so there is no question of “whether or not he is up for it”.

A prime ministerial face is not important before the elections, he said in response to a question from the audience.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said the state of the economy was a “powerful indictment” of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre during the launch of Sibal’s book.