Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal engaged in a war of words on Monday over the defeat in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly Elections. Gehlot said that Sibal’s comments criticising the leadership after the poll defeat has “hurt the sentiments” of party workers across the country.

With a few leaders echoing the views expressed by Sibal, Gehlot said in a series of tweets, “There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to mentioned (sic) our internal issue in Media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country.”

“Congress has seen various crises including (in) 1969, 1977, 1989 and later in the 1996, but every-time we came out stronger due to our ideology, programs, policies and firm belief in party leadership. We have improved with each and every crisis and also formed UPA government in 2004 under the able leadership of Soniaji, we shall overcome this time too,” the chief minister said.

Countering Sibal, Gehlot said, “There are various reasons for electoral loses. 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. Even today, Congress is the only party which can keep this Nation united and take it forward on the path of comprehensive development.”

In an interview with The Indian Express, Sibal once again slammed the Congress leadership, saying the party has still maintained silence over the dismal show in the Bihar Assembly election. It is to be noted that the seat tally of the Congress went down further as compared to the 2015 Assembly election. Sibal is among the few party leaders who have been criticizing the Congress’ performance since the poll debacle in the 2014 General Elections.

“We are yet to hear from the Congress party their views on our recent performance in Bihar and in the by-elections. Maybe they think all is well and that it should be business as usual,” Sibal said. “If for six years the Congress has not introspected what hope do we have for introspection now? We know what is wrong with Congress. Organisationally, we know what is wrong. I think we have all the answers. The Congress party itself knows all the answers. But they are not willing to recognise those answers,” he added. The Congress won 19 out of the 70 seats it contested in Bihar as part of the RJD-led grand alliance. The opposition alliance ended up with 110 seats, while the NDA retained power bagging 125 seats in the 243-member assembly. Sibal was part of a group of 23 senior Congress leaders who had in August written to party chief Sonia Gandhi making suggestions on ways revive the organisation.

Sibal was also one of the 23 senior Congress leaders who wrote a letter to Sonia Gandhi, seeking major changes in the functioning of the party. Sibal also said that the party has failed to project itself as an “effective alternative” and not just Bihar, people across the country are not voting for the Congress as they do not consider the party as an alternative to the BJP.

“The people of the country, not just in Bihar but wherever by-elections were held, obviously don’t consider the Congress to be an effective alternative. So, the writing is on the wall. Since there has been no dialogue and there seems to be no effort for dialogue by the leadership and since there is no forum to express my views, I am constrained to express them publicly,” remarked Sibal.

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