Rahul Gandhi has always been active and his presence only underlines the expectation in Congress that he take charge as president, senior party functionary and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh tells Subodh Ghildiyal. Excerpts from the interview:
Rahul Gandhi is active again after a gap. What does it point to?
Rahul Gandhi has always been active. It is the expectation of every Congressperson that Rahul gets elected as party president. We had announced an election schedule for June 30 which was deferred because of the second wave. But I am reflecting the sentiments of Congress workers across the country who are anticipating that Rahul will come back as party president.
Has Congress settled its “GenNext vs old” faultline?
The “young vs old” is a media creation. There was never such debate in Congress. Every party has to renew itself. You have to open the doors to a new generation. For every Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, the children of privilege who leave us for greener pastures, there are thousands of youngsters without the benefit of degree and pedigree who are slogging it out.
You have to reflect their aspirations. We are a party of experience and veterans, we have to bring all together. And Rahul recognises that.
Is the opposition unity limited to Parliament or will it shape the future anti-BJP alliance?
This unity in Parliament reflects the commonality of views outside Parliament. It’s a coming together of like-minded parties and though it is not yet a formal alliance, but these are parties who have had conversations at the leader-level and on two occasions submitted a joint memorandum to the Prime Minister on Covid and farm laws. For it to crytallize into a pre-poll alliance will require a lot of homework at the level of leaders. It is an evolving unity. The fact that Rahul Gandhi has been present in two meetings of the floor leaders and hosted a breakfast meeting… with Rahul at helm, they have spoken about issues which unite us. There are parties we are fighting in states who have attended these meetings, like AAP. How it evolves for 2024 is something we will take as it comes.
Congress has seen repeated setbacks lately. Can it claw back against BJP in north and west India?
We were expecting to form the government in Assam and Kerala and we did not expect a zero in Bengal polls. But we have to move on. We have to take these knocks and learn appropriate lessons. Congress won the last elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan against BJP, and we are a force in Jharkhand, Gujarat, Haryana. The 2014 results were a disappointment and 2019 were a deep shock. It is a wake-up call but Congress is a party with great resilience and name recognition across country and Congress system is the only way of managing India – see, how BJP uses “High Command”, and hypocritically employs “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” slogan. There is still a lot of goodwill for Congress and we have to be effective in translating it into votes.
Since the parties are ducking it, will the leadership issue prove the deal breaker again?
These are premature issues and what is required is unity of purpose and programme. We are united to rid the country of Narendra Modi and the BJP government. But to consolidate the opposition, it has to have a solid programmatic content.
The unity is riding the Bengal poll outcome. Could the next assembly polls early 2022 set it back?
The opposition unity has multiple pillars, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and now Mamata Banerjee’s magnificent victory. The TMC has been part of meetings in Parliament. Bengal is a transformative moment in the country’s political story. We are optimistic that opposition unity will go beyond next assembly polls because all the parties realise the damage done to country’s democratic institutions, economy and society by this “one-man show, two-men army of government”.