Former Minister and now Congress spokesman Manish Tewari tries to clear doubts about the party’s future by claiming that hype created by BJP in the wake of Assembly poll results is highly exaggerated. He rules out concern about the fate of Congress in an exclusive interview to Amresh Srivastava. Excerpts:
What are the reasons for poor show by the Congress in the Assembly elections held during this summer in four States?
Well! You are right that the Congress Party did lose two states where it was ruling. But in the case of Assam, the defeat occurred after being in the Government for 15 long years. In the case of Kerala, the cyclical tradition between United Democratic Front (UDF) and Left Democratic front (LDF) has been maintained. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, despite the Congress DMK alliance getting 1.7 percent votes less than AIDMK, it did not fructify into seats and in West Bengal the Congress today has emerged as second largest party and thus becomes the principal opposition party. Therefore, while we may have electoral defeat the manner was cyclic structure. This does not by any stretch of imagination mean that the Congress Party has been completely demolished.
What kind of challenge does this bring for the party? More so since there are going to be elections again in quite a few States like UP, Punjab, Uttrakhand and Gujarat through the next year.
Obviously, you see every State has its own dynamics, every State sticks to its own rhythm and the states which are going to polls next round, we are confident that the Congress Party would do better than before.
Is there a leadership crisis in the party? There is an impression that Rahul Gandhi's leadership does not cut the ice among the electorate. Can you please comment on this?
Well there is no leadership crisis in the Congress Party. State elections are contested on the State issues and therefore, to extrapolate and blaming a particular individual for a defeat which took place, as I explained earlier in case of Assam after being in the office for long 15 years and in case of Kerala, because of the cyclic tradition is being maintained. It is not something which really is out of the ordinary whereby the leadership or a particular individual is to be blamed.
The Congress faces the twin challenges from the BJP and regional parties often led by backward caste leaders. The party can tackle only one at a time as proven in Bihar poll. What kind of strategy the party can have to assert against both?
The Congress Party has always been fighting against the different political formation in different political parties in different states. For example in Jammu and Kashmir the principal opposition of the Congress is National Conference and People Democratic Party (PDP) both are regional parties. Similarly in Punjab the Akali Dal is regional party, again in Haryana it was for long time Indian National LokDal (INDL), in Kerala the LDF and in West Bengal it is the Trinamul Congress (TMC). So the Congress has been simultaneously fighting the regional parties as well as the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in different states around the country.
The BJP programme of Congress Mukt Bharat or Congress free India has not been countered the way it should have been. Why is it so? Is Congress finding itself on weak footing?
The Congress Mukt Bharat is complete oxymoron. Congress Mukt Bharat is delusional fantasy of the BJP. Have they forgotten that they had only two seats in the Parliament in 1984? Have they forgotten that after two successive defeats in 2004 and 2009 they were collapsing around themselves? So there is an electoral cycle which is playing itself out and for the BJP to exult that by winning one State of Assam it can become the principal political party is totally wrong. Even in terms of the numbers in the last five states election which concluded recently, Congress won 114 seats to the BJP 65.
Often Congress leaders and freedom struggle icons like Mahatama Gandhi, Sardar Patel, BR Amdedkar are attempted to be appropriated by the BJP. Congress calls this a BJP ploy. Yet, it has not been able to expose BJP and Sangh Parivar on this front in a way where this couldn't boost the moral standing of the Parivar. Why is it so?
Well ultimately Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and a pantheon of other leaders were all part and parcel of the Congress Party. They were never ever part of either the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the different political outfits which spun out of it. So under those circumstances for the BJP to claim that and try to appropriate icons of the national movement specially when it did not participate in the national movement at all is laughable.
After every defeat right from May 2014 Congress says that it would introspect. When wouldthe introspection end and Congress would come up with an actionable plan?
Well! You introspect primarily because the nature of the each political event is different. So to say that we are only introspecting and not acting is completely incorrect. It is our responsibility to analyse the electoral result in each state.
Congress has been a mass based party though its base is said to be shrinking now. On the other hand BJP is a cadre based party whose mass appeal is said to be increasing. How does Congress see this trend? Is the party worried about this? If yes, what does the party plan to do in this respect?
Well! Outside Assam, or in remaining four states, if you win six seats and if that is the barometer of the increasing mass appeal, I am afraid somebody does not understand his political science properly.