You were once the chief election authority in the Party. Any idea why the central election of the Party has not taken place for a very long time now. Since the last two years, we had to face the General Elections as well as various state elections. During this period, we couldn’t hold internal elections as the Party was busy with ongoing elections. So the Party’s super decision body, the Congress Working Committee, decided to extend the membership drive exercise for the entire year till December.
Is it because of the internal elections that Rahul Gandhi’s political coronation is delayed? Please don’t relate this issue with Rahul Gandhi’s new responsibility in the Party. It is a normal practice that the organizational elections are held after the completion of membership drive. And that will be held during the plenary session, which will be scheduled any time after December.
In the last General Elections, the Congress Party lost rather badly. The causes of the failure were discussed in the Party forum, and many suggestions were made as well. However the Action Taken Report was never implemented… You are talking about the Antony Committee. I think the Committee met several times in the past; and in my view many suggestions that were made, have already been implemented.
Demands were raised to fix the responsibility for the defeat. Even Rahul Gandhi’s name cropped up for criticism… After the debacle of the General Elections, the Antony Committee was asked to look at the causes in detail. The Committee, after much deliberation with important leaders from the Party, submitted its report to the Congress President. The responsibilities are being fixed. Action is being taken.
There’s nothing to show for it… I’ll admit that many of the steps are yet to be taken. But then, no one said that all the action needs to be taken in one go. For example, we have in-charges of various states, and they are taking action following their own deliberations. If by action taken you mean dismissal of a functionary responsible for defeat, yes, that is being done too. Rectification is an ongoing process.
I understand you mean to say that implementation has been done in bits and pieces. But is there is a possibility of an overall reshuffle in the organization… If and when the Congress President decides to go for a reshuffle, it will be done. She can very well do so as per the demand within the Party. She has the requisite power and she has used it in the past. Only recently, for example, Ghulam Nabi Azad was given the charge of Uttar Pradesh.
Let’s talk about the Party’s booth committees. Do they hold water in front of their counterparts from BJP? I think that activities at this level should be improved so that we can have much better interaction with people.
So you agree that the booth level committees are not very effective in wooing voters to the party-fold… It might be the case that some committees are ineffective, but you can’t generalise that. Block and booth level committees are the backbone of the Party to interact with people. They have to carry forward the programs given by the Party. When I was a block secretary, I used to regularly interact with people without being told to do so. The idea is to be proactive.
Do you think that Congress still has workers as honest as they used to be during your time… We have enough workers who are the real source of inspiration. They are the soul of the Party. I think it was quite obvious during the recent agitation in Delhi, which was well attended.
Where do your cadres stand in comparison to those from BJP? It is natural to be upbeat when you win an election. Conversely, you feel dejected following a loss. The same is true in case of our workers too. They were demoralized a bit. But this has changed now. BJP has started reneging on its tall promises on price rise and black money. There’s a feeling in the masses that things are not good. Mr. Modi needs to recall all the tall promises he made when he was in the opposition, and also during the campaign.
What is the Congress doing for the plight of poor? Congress is raising people’s issues in the Parliament. The Government says that we are stalling the Parliamentary work. My question is, why are the prices not coming down? In fact, there is a stark mismatch in petroleum prices and the prices of goods and services. If the oil bill has gone down substantially, the benefits should have been passed on to the poor people.
But the Finance Minister categorically says that the Congress is to be blamed for high prices as the present government inherited double digit inflation from the previous UPA government. It is a wrong allegation. During our time, the pressure was because of the high crude oil prices that had touched $140 per barrel. The current price is $30 per barrel. They have failed to check the price. And this is because they don’t have the will to help the poor.
But the irony is that despite all of what you are mentioning, BJP is winning state after state… Oh yes, (sarcastically) they won Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala and Delhi. But BJP won Assam! Assam is the only exception. Congress was ruling for the last three terms; so, the anti-incumbency factor was there.
You talked about the anti-incumbency factor, but that may also apply for the states like Karnataka and Uttarakhand… Diminishing return will apply for BJP. They say that they will make “Congress Mukt Bharat.” They can’t do that. They are using the wrong weapons.
What is that? They used governors in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh to topple the elected governments, which is shameful. However the judiciary has taught them a lesson. Just wait till the next Parliamentary Elections when people too will teach them a lesson.
Do you think the government is inefficient because of the lack of experience in governance? Mr. Modi has a fairly long experience of governance. Gujarat massacre, Godhra and many similar ‘achievements’ have been in his tenure. This government is very clever. They are passing on every facility to the rich people, and they are growing richer by the day. Look at people around him. At least, don’t make poor people any poorer.
Let’s talk about the fate of Congress in Uttar Pradesh… I want to assure you that no government in Uttar Pradesh will be formed without the help of Congress. Our estimate is that the Congress Party is going to do fairly very well in UP.