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Kapil Sibal announces exit from Cong, files RS nomination as SP-backed Independent

Kapil Sibal announces exit from Cong, files RS nomination as SP-backed Independent

Lucknow/New Delhi: Announcing that he had resigned from the party on May 16, long-time Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Wednesday filed his nomination from the Rajya Sabha as a Samajwadi Party-backed Independent candidate from Uttar Pradesh.

Sibal, whose exit is another jolt for the electorally battered Congress that has seen a spate of high-profile resignations, said he dreams of bringing all opposition parties together in the fight against the BJP in 2024. Refusing to speak against the Congress, a party he has been with for three decades, he said he bears it no ill-will and is not far from the party and its ideology.

The former Union minister went to the Uttar Pradesh assembly premises to file his papers with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav and other senior leaders by his side.

A prominent member of the G23' grouping of leaders, which had sought an organisational overhaul in the Congress, Sibal's tenure as the party's 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.

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 the Congress after 31 years. There must be something Sometimes such decisions are to be taken."

He added that his ideology continues to be related with the 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 the 2024 Lok Sabha election, the lawyer-politician 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," he said.

Discussing the SP's support to 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...," he said.

The Congress sought to put forward a brave face following the dramatic announcement of its leader, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Congress leadership and had called for a non-Gandhi as the new party chief.

In Kochi, AICC general secretary K C Venugopal said the "the space of the Congress is very broad".

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

He refused to comment on what the implications of this could be.

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.

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

"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.

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)."

Sibal's resignation comes after Sunil Jakhar and Hardik Patel resigned 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."

Elections for 11 Rajya Sabha seats of Uttar Pradesh are underway and the SP is likely to get two more seats; the remaining will be bagged by the ruling BJP.

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.

The SP has a strength of 111 in the 403-member assembly while the BJP has 255.

Asked about the other two Rajya Sabha candidates of the party, Akhilesh Yadav said, "It will be declared soon. You all will come to know about it."

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