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February 20, 2001
The Rediff Interview/Congress MP Sunil Dutt
I have been a lifelong Congressman because I believe in the party's philosophy," declared Sunil Dutt, the Congress MP from Bombay North-West, who has been asked by party president Sonia Gandhi, to take charge of the Youth Congress.
"The Congress is the only political party which is progressive and takes into account the unity and diversity of India," Dutt, a former actor and director, told
"The Congress is the only political party which is progressive and takes into account the unity and diversity of India," Dutt, a former actor and director, toldV Gangadhar at his Pali Hill office.
What will be the nature of your responsibility?
Rejuvenate the Youth Congress. Make it more effective. People-oriented. I will supervise how the Youth Congress is performing and suggest ways and means to improve the way it works. It has to have a positive, dynamic image.
You will agree, that of late, such an image has been lacking?
Yes, there are reasons for this. The late Rajiv Gandhi re-activated Indian youth. By reducing the voting age to 18, he gave the Indian youth additional responsibility.
After his death, the people at the helm of the Congress ignored the potential of the Youth Congress.
Sonia Gandhi has taken steps to tone up frontal organisations like the Youth Congress and the women's wing. In one go, the party president has divided the responsibilities among several leaders.
Do you have any immediate plans for the Youth Congress?
One of my first tasks is to instill discipline into the organisation. We do not need slogan shouting. Too many 'leaders' do nothing but sit on podiums or get themselves photographed with other leaders. This must stop. The Youth Congress leaders must go back to the roots and serve the people. I want to bring back value-based politics to the youth wing.
The Youth Congress had acquired a reputation of being a noisy, trouble-making body, inclined towards violence. Why is that?
You see, sometimes, in order to combat the militancy of the BJP or the Shiv Sena cadres, our boys have also tended to go a bit out of control. This is not desirable. Violence is not the Congress hallmark. We will have to follow Gandhian ideals. They are relevant in this age. Look what Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela have achieved.
Why are Youth Congress cadres seldom visible? During any calamity, it is the RSS or VHP units which approached the people and helped them. The Youth Congress is seldom associated with relief or social work.
That statement is too generalised.
I rushed to Gujarat immediately after the quake struck, carrying with me a mobile hospital donated by the Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation. We also carried with us X-ray machines, which we distributed to the local medical units.
Our duty is to help people and not bask in media glory.
At the same time, the RSS had started off as a social organisation. It had a history of social service which had been acknowledged by everyone. Problems with the RSS arose when its social service was communalised and it began to interfere in everything, like running the country.
Do you expect ego hassles in your efforts to rejuvenate the Youth Congress?
Look, I do not have any ego hassles and do not expect any problems on this account. Very soon, I will have a meeting of the presidents of the Youth Congress from different states to discuss their individual problems and chalk out fresh programmes. The focus will be on service to the people and disciplined work.
Design: Rajesh Karkera
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