There is something Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, who have raised concerns about the current state of the Congress, have in common. Apart from the letter they wrote expressing their views, they all are Rajya Sabha members. Now, as other Congress leaders are taking aim at these dissenters, it's their Rajya Sabha membership which is being used as ammunition against them.
In response after response, Congress loyalists have asked, "How can those who belong to the Rajya Sabha even suggest that the Congress is soaked in five-star culture? How can they say the party needs to go back to the drawing board when they themselves have led a cushy life as Rajya Sabha members." This barb has now irked the leaders as they point out that their past shows they have contested elections and been successful, and that it was the Congress which decided to send them to the upper house. The most vocal has been Anand Sharma, who has now broken his silence to News18.com.
"The need of a bicameral legislature was felt by the framers. The people ought to read what Nehru, who was the chairman of the constitution committee, Dr Ambedkar, and Gopalaswami (Ayyangar) had said in the constituent committee. India is a union and RS members represent states. All the members, each one of them, are elected members. None of them, including former PMs or ministers, have been from the nominated category. All the former PMs were elected to the Rajya Sabha, and RS is the first house of Parliament, because we are a union of states. There are certain issues which are state subjects. Important bills are first brought in the Rajya Sabha like creation of the union territories of J&K and Ladakh," Sharma said.
Some of the tallest leaders since Independence have been members of the Rajya Sabha, the Congress leader reminded.
"Decency and decorum should be discussed. People must have a sense of history and understanding of the constitution of our republic. In the recent past we have had a PM for two successive terms, Dr Manmohan Singh, who was a member of the Rajya Sabha, continues to be in the Rajya Sabha, and continues to be respected as Prime Minister and earlier as finance minister when opening of the Indian economy was set in motion. Many other former PMs have been members of the RS at various times, including (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and Indira Gandhiji," said Sharma.
The former union minister said it is no political favour when leaders are given Rajya Sabha seats. "It's for the political parties to decide who are the people who are qualified and capable to represent them in the council of states. Both houses have their own roles. If it is a shortcoming to be a member of the Rajya Sabha then the very functioning of Indian democracy will be derailed because RS can't be left unpopulated," he said. "People should be judged on merit and their contribution which is well-documented in Parliament and should also be documented in history. To score cheap points, the dignity of the Rajya Sabha should not be assaulted and elected members shouldn't be belittled."
The matter is unlikely to end here. It's not just about Rajya Sabha vs Lok Sabha. Some of the signatories to the letter were those who had either won Lok Sabha polls in the past like Jitin Prasada or those who are members now like Manish Tewari.
It has now become a battle for survival. For the rebels, and also for the party.