Amid questions being raised by some in Congress over its Bihar poll performance, senior leader Salman Khurshid on Tuesday took a dig at such party colleagues calling them "doubting Thomases" who suffer periodic "pangs of anxiety".
In a Facebook post that started with an Urdu couplet of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, former union minister Khurshid, who is among the leaders considered close to the Gandhi family, said if the mood of the electorate is resistant to the liberal values the party has espoused and cherished, it should be prepared for a long struggle rather than look for short cuts to get back into power.
Citing the last Mughal ruler's couplet which talks about looking within for flaws that would make one not see others as flawed (...padi apni buraiyon par jo nazar to nigah mein koi bura na raha), he said Bahadur Shah Zafar's words might be a useful companion for many of our party colleagues who suffer "periodic pangs of anxiety".
Some senior Congress leaders including Kapil Sibal have called for introspection after the party's dismal performance in the recently held Bihar assembly polls, after which the ruling NDA returned to power in the state despite the main member of the grand opposition alliance, Rashtriya Janata Dal, putting up a strong show and emerging as the single largest party.
Quite a few leaders from the RJD as well as the Congress have blamed the grand old party's below-par performance for the opposition alliance missing the majority mark in the Bihar assembly elections.
Tariq Anwar, party's general secretary and a veteran leader from Bihar, had earlier this week acknowledged that there were shortcomings due to which the Congress performed worse than other 'Mahagathbandhan' constituents in the Bihar polls and asserted that the high command was serious about introspection as well as a thorough analysis of the results.
"When we do well, admittedly somewhat infrequently they take it for granted. But when we underperform, not even do badly, they are quick to bite their nails. By the looks of it there would be little of the nails left for future disappointments. Is it really a case of bad workmen quarreling with their tools?" Khurshid said.
Noting that everyone in the party is perplexed and pained by the continuing misfortunes of the Congress that some have chosen to describe as "our misadventures", he said there is something called faith, not necessarily blind, in destiny.
The favourite panacea of "doubting Thomases", introspection and collective leadership, might do no collateral damage but is a bit overestimated, Khurshid asserted.
"Our real redemption might be found in understanding the mind of the contemporary citizen, molded by prevailing circumstances and influenced by a self-serving potion of social envy and suspicion, if not hate, fed by the ruling establishment," he said.
"If the mood of the electorate is resistant to the liberal values we have espoused and cherished we should be prepared for a long struggle rather than look for short cuts to get back into power," he said.
Being excluded from power is not to be casually embraced in public life but if it is the result of principled politics it should be accepted with honour, he asserted.
So the constant refrain of some persons should not be of aimless introspection but for reaffirmation of fundamental principles the Congress believes in, he said.
"If we are explicitly or implicitly willing to compromise with our principles to regain power we might as well pack up our bags. It is another matter that consolidation of our principled politics, like any cause, requires periodic re-appraisal and re-writing of strategy and logistics," he said.
But those cannot be done in the media for our adversaries to checkmate it promptly, he added.
His remarks come after voices of discontent within the Congress resurfaced following the party's poor showing in the Bihar Assembly polls, with a section of leaders calling for action and introspection.
Calls for reform and accountability for the Bihar polls debacle, however, invited quick rebuttals from the party which fielded veteran leader Ashok Gehlot to say that the Congress has always sprung back from crisis.
Gehlot's assertions followed Sibal's public criticism of the Congress leadership and his remarks that the time of introspection was over and people no longer saw the party as an effective alternative.
Backing Sibal, Congress Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha said it is time to act now, else it will be too late.
Khurshid, in his post, said the battle for liberal India informed by the rich heritage of India's humanistic traditions cannot be joined by feeble-hearted and those unwilling to embrace deprivation and sacrifice.
"The noblest values of the freedom movement and the commitment of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) stood out because of sacrifices borne in terms of life and property," Khurshid said.
"Today we are asked in the words of King Lear to abstain from felicity awhile'. Let our impatience be directed at those who have sullied the humanistic ethos of the great Indian civilization rather than with self-perceived impressions of just deserts," he said.
Great minds have self-doubt, not the arrogance of doubting the world around themselves, the former Union minister said.
Sibal, also a former union minister, tagged his media interview and tweeted on Monday, "We are yet to hear on recent polls... Maybe Congress leadership thinks it should be business as usual."
Ticking off Sibal for going public over the party's internal issues, Gehlot had said, "There was no need for Mr Kapil Sibal to mention our internal issue in media, this has hurt the sentiments of party workers across the country."
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.