Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday criticised his colleague and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, saying that his remarks about the party’s internal matters hurt the sentiments of workers across the country.

Earlier in the day, Sibal had conceded that people “do not consider Congress an alternative” and also blamed the leadership for not recognising the matters ailing the party, despite knowing about them.

“There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to mention our internal issue in Media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country,” Gehlot said in a tweet.

Backing the party during its leadership crises, the chief minister said Congress had seen it in 1969, 1977, 1989 and 1996, but came out stronger every time because of “our ideology, programs, policies and firm belief in party leadership.”

“We have improved with each and every crisis and also formed UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government in 2004 under the able leadership of Soniaji [Gandhi], we shall overcome this time too,” he said in another tweet.

On the party’s poor performance in various elections, including the recently concluded Bihar Assembly polls, where it won only 19 out of the 70 seats it contested on, Gehlot asserted that there is more than one reason for the failure. “But each time rank and file of the Congress Party has shown undivided and firm belief in the party leadership and that is why we came out of it stronger and united after every crises,” he said.

The chief minister further said that the Congress was the only party which can keep this country united and take it on the path of comprehensive development.

In an interview, Sibal had asserted that the fact that the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party, a nominated one, is the reason behind the leadership’s reluctance to address the matters at hand.

“Democratic processes must be adopted and embraced even in the constitution of the CWC,” he said. “You don’t expect nominated members to start questioning and raise their concerns...” He also claimed that the party was aware of the problems but was not willing to answer them.

Earlier in the day, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram also tweeted that it was time for the party to “introspect, ideate, consult and act” following its poor performance in the Bihar General Assembly elections. In his tweet, Karti Chidambaram, the son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, tagged a tweet by Sibal on the interview concerned.

Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha also backed Sibal, saying that the Congress needs to survive in order for the democracy to survive. “Kapilji is an iconic lawyer and hard core congress personality,” he tweeted. “Together and individually we have fought countless battles and continue to fight against BJP shenanigans. For our democracy to survive Congress has to survive. Time to act is now or tomorrow may be too late.”

Various leaders in the party have been demanding a change in the organisation. At least 23 party leaders, including Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Prithviraj Chavan and Milind Deora, had in August written to party president Sonia Gandhi, asking for a complete transformation of the organisation.

“Even after 14 months of the 2019 electoral verdict, the Congress Party has not undertaken any honest introspection to analyse the reasons for its continued decline,” the letter had said. “In order to stem the decline, we have taken upon ourselves to be open and frank so that the Congress Party’s future, which presently is at stake, is not jeopardized any further.”

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had had earlier called for internal elections and said that a president appointed without one may not even have 1% support of the leaders.

Besides Azad, Tharoor had also called for holding elections to appoint the party chief. He had, however, maintained that the elections should be held if Rahul Gandhi does not wish to take over as the party president.