Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel claimed that there were high expectations from the Congress, and that their poor election performance in “one or two places is discussed widely” unlike their good performances.
In an interview to The Indian Express, published on Tuesday, Baghel said: “We won Punjab with a two-third majority, won Chhattisgarh with a three-fourth majority, we won Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, we are in government in Maharashtra. In one or two places, we perform weakly….but that is discussed widely but when we win…that is not talked about.”
He also pointed out that the Bharatiya Janata Party was not winning everywhere, adding that in some states they managed to form the government through the “backdoor” and by “breaking parties”. “Even in Bihar...they just scraped through,” the Chhattisgarh chief minister added.
Opposition party Rashtriya Janata Dal put up a strong fight in the Bihar Assembly polls and emerged the single-largest party with 75 seats. The Congress won only 19 seats out of the 70 that it had contested. The Left parties put up an impressive performance with 16 wins.
Baghel also spoke about the infighting in the Congress, and reiterated his call to discuss the matters raised in the party forum. “Ghar ki baat toh aap bahar main thodi na karenge [Are you going to speak about your personal matters in public?]” Baghel told The Indian Express. “See… if there is some issue between father and son at home...it has one meaning and if they take it outside...it will have a different meaning.”
Several senior politicians of the party have engaged in very public differences of opinion on the functioning of the Congress. On Monday, Congress leader from Haryana, Kuldeep Bishnoi, criticised senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad for going public with his disappointment with the performance in the Bihar elections and the state bye-polls.
In a video on Twitter, Bishnoi questioned how such a senior politician could make “irresponsible statements”. “Azad saab is saying that elections should be held from lower rung to the top...but he should answer why did he not say all this when he was appointed Youth Congress president of J&K and president of all India Youth Congress,” he said. “Today he is indulging in a conspiracy with the opposition parties to break the party…we will not let the conspiracy succeed. What is your past?”
Bishnoi highlighted that Azad had won elections only three times, and that he was speaking against the Gandhi family “who had nominated you to Rajya Sabha five times”. He also accused Azad of betraying the Gandhis.
Bishnoi’s reaction came a day after Azad said there was no change in his demands for holding internal elections in the party. He also said that the party would not change till functioning changes at every level.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera also made indirect references to senior party leaders who have offered their criticisms, The Indian Express reported. During a press conference, the Congress leader said: “...as regard to the comments made by some senior leaders, I would say as a young man in the party that these senior leaders, who we have grown up learning from, should teach us the right lesson of not going public with any of their concerns particularly when they can just pick up the phone and talk to anyone.”
Demands for an overhaul in the functioning of the Congress party have been raised by several party leaders in the recent past. Last week, party leader Kapil Sibal had criticised the poor performance in the recently-concluded Bihar elections. He had blamed the leadership for not recognising the matters ailing the party and said that people “do not consider Congress an alternative”. On Sunday, Sibal continued his tirade against the Congress, claiming that the party was no longer an effective opposition.
In August, at least 23 party leaders, including Sibal, Shashi Tharoor, Prithviraj Chavan and Milind Deora, had written to Sonia Gandhi, asking for a complete transformation of the organisation. Tharoor had also called for holding elections to appoint the party chief. Azad had then too called for internal elections.
Amid the dissent against the party by senior leaders, Congress veteran Salman Khurshid said that there was no leadership crisis in the party.