It was yet another nail, this time a veteran one, in the coffin of the Grand Old Party on Wednesday as Congress leader Kapil Sibal — flanked by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav — filed his nomination for the upcoming Rajya Sabha election with the support of the SP and announced that he had severed ties with the Congress.
While not many were surprised by the announcement, given that Sibal was part of the dissenters group in the Congress — G-23 — and had made his discomfort with the leadership clear, the senior leader’s exit comes at a time when the party is struggling to keep its flock together amid infighting, a missing-in-action top brass and the BJP behemoth.
Sibal’s departure also brings back focus on several big names who have left the Congress recently, with the party witnessing five big exits in the past five months. Let’s take a look:
- Sunil Jakhar: Yet another old warhorse, former Punjab chief Sunil Jakhar — who had been showcaused by the Congress leadership for his criticism of former chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi — quit the party this month and joined the BJP. Jakhar said his decision to break ties with the Gandhis was not personal but in the interest of stability of Punjab and to protect the state. The Congress had decided to remove Jakhar from all party posts for two years a fortnight ago on the recommendation of the disciplinary action committee. The former Congress leader had since then been considering his political options.
- Hardik Patel: After months of back and forth over infighting in the Gujarat unit, Patidar leader Hardik Patel finally quit the Congress this month in yet another blow for the Grand Old Party just months ahead of the assembly elections in the state. In his letter, Patel launched a scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi, who did not meet him separately during his recent Gujarat visit. “When I met top leaders, they seemed distracted by their mobile phones and other issues as opposed to listening to issues concerning Gujarat,” he wrote, adding that senior leaders in Gujarat are more interested in ensuring that “visiting leaders get their chicken sandwiches” than engaging with people during yatras.
- Ashwani Kumar: Former Union minister Ashwani Kumar quit the Grand Old Party in February, saying he “can best subserve larger national causes outside the party fold”. In his resignation letter to Sonia Gandhi, he said the move is “consistent with my dignity”.
- RPN Singh: The former Union minister, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi, quit the Congress and joined the BJP ahead of the Uttar Pradesh polls. Singh was the Congress’s Jharkhand in-charge but had reportedly been pushed to the margins in the party, having fallen out of favour with the Gandhis. Speaking to the media, he said he was in the Congress for 32 years but the “party is no longer what it used to be”.
- Amarinder Singh: After months of bickering with then Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh quit the Congress and founded his own party Punjab Lok Congress. The veteran’s exit was followed by the party’s drubbing in the Punjab polls.