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Kapil Sibal quits Congress, files Rajya Sabha nomination with SP backing

Kapil Sibal quits Congress, files Rajya Sabha nomination with SP backing
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Lucknow/New Delhi: Congress veteran Kapil Sibal on Wednesday said he has resigned from the party in a dramatic announcement to give yet another jolt to the electorally battered party and filed his nomination as a Samajwadi Party-backed Independent candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls from Uttar Pradesh.

A former Union minister, Sibal, who is part of the G23, a ginger group of senior leaders in the Congress who have demanded organisational reforms, and has been vocal in his criticism of the party leadership, said he had resigned on May 16.

The 73-year-old lawyer-politician, who joins a growing list of Congress leaders to quit the party in the last couple of years, said he dreams of bringing all opposition parties together in the fight against the BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress sought to put forward a brave face, saying its space is large in the national polity and many leaders joining the grand old party in various states is not being taken note of.

Refusing to speak against the Congress, a party he has been with for three decades, Sibal said he bears it no ill-will and is not far from the party and its ideology.

He went to the Uttar Pradesh assembly premises in Lucknow to file his papers with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav and other senior leaders by his side. Sibal's tenure as the Congress' Rajya Sabha MP ends on July 4.

"I have filed the nomination as an Independent candidate. I thank Akhileshji for supporting me," Sibal told reporters in Lucknow.

"I resigned from the Congress on May 16 and am no longer a Congress leader," he said, refusing to be drawn into criticism of the party. Sibal had previously called for a non-Gandhi as the new party chief.

"I had a deep relationship with the Congress. It was for 30-31 years. This is not a small thing. I joined the Congress because of Rajivji (former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi). You must be thinking, how one can go from Congress after 31 years. There must be something. Sometimes, such decisions are to be taken."

He added that his ideology continues to be related to Congress.

"I am not far away from the Congress and its ideology. I am with the sentiments of the party," he said.

His effort and his dream would be to see that all opposition parties come together on a common platform to fight the BJP in 2024, Sibal said.

"We want to make a coalition and oppose the Modi government. We want to create an atmosphere in which we can oppose the BJP. I will personally work towards that."

Asked whether his ideology will now be that of the Samajwadi Party, Sibal said: "I am with all inclusive ideologies. Be it of the SP, RLD, Mamataji (West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) or Stalin (Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin)." In Kochi, AICC general secretary K C Venugopal told reporters "the space of the Congress is very broad".

Responding to a query, he said eight former MLAs had joined the party in Haryana two days ago but such developments were not getting prominence.

A senior Congress leader said on condition of anonymity that it is important for internal democracy to show a mirror to the leadership and noted that such voices are diminishing.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said be it a spokesperson of the party, or a law minister in the Congress government, "our identity" is through the Congress and not the other way round.

"None of us should forget this," he told reporters in Delhi.

Discussing the SP's support for Sibal, Akhilesh Yadav described him as a senior leader and a well-known lawyer. He had been in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and put his point across well everywhere. "I hope he will put his views on big questions of unemployment and inflation, insecure borders and China...," Yadav said.

Sibal expressed the hope that the Congress rejuvenates. "I have no ill-will."

"We are all constrained by the fact that we are members of parties and have to abide by the discipline of that party but it is important to have an independent voice. When the voice of an independent is raised, people will feel that he is not associated with any other party," he said after filing his papers.

Sibal's resignation comes after Sunil Jakhar and Hardik Patel quit from the Congress in quick succession, which recently held a 'Chintan Shivir' in Udaipur. Among the others who have parted ways with the party are Jitin Prasada, RPN Singh, Amarinder Singh and Ashwani Kumar.

Taking a dig at his former party colleague, Prasada, who is now BJP minister in Uttar Pradesh, said: "How's the Prasad' Mr. Sibal! #Rajyasabha."

Prasada was a member of the G23 when he quit the party and joined the BJP months before the UP assembly elections. Sibal at the time had said, "Jitin Prasada Joins BJP. The question is will he get 'prasada' from BJP or is he just a 'catch' for UP elections? In such deals if 'ideology' doesn't matter changeover is easy."

The poll process for 11 Rajya Sabha seats of Uttar Pradesh is currently underway.

There had been speculation that the SP could field Sibal as a Rajya Sabha candidate. He was the lawyer who secured senior SP leader Azam Khan's bail.

Khan had been in Sitapur jail for over 27 months in various cases lodged against him in Rampur. His supporters said he wanted Sibal to go to the Rajya Sabha with the SP's support.

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