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Sibal’s SP backing: Regional players emerging as a challenge to BJP & Congress?


NEW DELHI: Former Congress leader Kapil Sibal’s Rajya Sabha entry with the support of the Samajwadi Party (SP) shows continued muscle-flexing by regional parties who are looking to position themselves as an equal player with the grand old party ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.   

Sibal, who announced to have quit the party on May 16, will enter the upper house as an independent with backing from Akhilesh Yadav’s party. He was one of the most vocal among the G23 ginger group questioning the leadership of Gandhis and pushing for organizational elections.   

While the opposition parties are looking to come on board to challenge the BJP in 2024, several regional players like Trinamool Congress (TMC), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are talking about a non-Congress alliance to challenge the Congress’s big brother attitude. Even the Left parties have questioned its weakening electoral grip across the country.

“Congress has a countrywide presence but it has lost connection with the people over the years. It has to soon recognize and acknowledge the growing might of regional parties and ensure to treat them as an equal partner to challenge the BJP,” said a senior opposition party leader.

Though former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi made an attempt to clear the air on his comments that only Congress can take on the BJP but it did send the wrong message to regional players.   

There is a growing list of Congress leaders leaving the party and many joining hands with non-BJP players like TMC, AAP, and NCP. Sibal is the third party leader along with former Punjab chief Sunil Jakhar and former Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel to bid goodbye to Congress this month.  

During recent assembly elections in five states, Congress has accused TMC of poaching its party leaders and said that no alliance is possible when they are engaged in damaging the grand old party and helping the BJP.

Though Sibal’s exit from the party was in process for quite some time now as he was in talks with some other regional players, including Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), said sources. Things became evident when he did not attend the party ‘Chintan Shivir’ Udaipur where he was invited as a Rajya Sabha MP.

The Congress has tried to mollify some of his other G23 colleagues – Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda, by probable Rajya Sabha offer and appointments of their men at some important posts but Sibal, who held the portfolio of cabinet minister during United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime, remained untouchable.