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The Rediff Interview / S S Ahluwalia

'Sitaram Kesri is a misfit and must go'

Persistence pays. That is what former Congress minister S S Ahluwalia learnt under P V Narasimha Rao's regime. Ahluwalia was a vociferous critic of the Narasimha Rao government until the former prime minister, towards the end of his regime, made Ahluwalia a minister. Thereafter, the stormy petrel turned into an ardent Rao loyalist.

In this short interview to Tara Shankar Sahay, Ahluwalia flays the policies of the Congress president, Sitaram Kesri, calling him a fraud whose ambitions were rudely jolted when the party was badly routed in the recent Punjab elections. Excerpts:

You and your colleagues who are against Kesri must be pleased at the Congress's defeat in the Punjab polls?

No, we are not happy but sad that a man like Sitaram Kesri is the party president as well as the Congress parliamentary party leader. I tell you he is a fraud. He has been doing the very same things which he had accused Narasimha Rao of doing. What is more, he has no political base like Narasimha Rao. Kesri is where he is now through guile and deceit, and favouring those who he thinks will help him further his ambitions. But the Punjab polls have shown that his scheming has failed and his ambitions have received a rude jolt.

What are your plans now?

We had declared at the outset that we will continue the struggle in various fora of the party. That is what we are doing.

Can you elaborate.

We will not keep quiet at the way Kesri is running the party. We want to know what he has done to revitalise it. We want to know why he has re-admitted all those Congressmen against whom various corruption charges have been levelled. We want to know why the Central Bureau of Investigation is probing against him. Kesri has no option but to reply to those questions.

What if he does not bother to reply to you at all?

(Laughs) That is not possible. The Congress is nobody's (sic) ancestral property. The matter will be raised in the impending Congress Working Committee and the All-India Congress Committee meetings. After all, it is our right to raise issues which directly affect the party.

Are you being guided in your endeavour by Rao?

(Agitatedly) Kesri and his cohorts might think that Narasimha Rao has ended his political career but they are mistaken. Narasimha Rao is very much there to inspire and guide us in making the Congress strong once again, not like the present where the party is groping in the dark under Kesri's leadership.

Don't forget that the Congress lost the general elections under Rao.

At least he had the guts to concede this and introspect. Under Narasimha Rao we graciously accepted that we lost the elections because of various shortcomings. But what can Kesri boast of? That because of his fads and foibles the Congress lost the Punjab polls? That both Kamal Nath and Buta Singh lost the polls? The far-reaching transformation made by Narasimha Rao, especially the economic liberalisations, is being continued by the United Front government. Our former prime minister made the country strong and self-reliant. Now you tell me about Kesri's achievements.

You claim that you are inspired by Rao. In what way?
I told you that he gives the benefit of his vast political experience. He guides us regarding the way the party and the organisation can improve.

As an ardent Rao loyalist, do you think that he nurses a grudge against Kesri?

(Laughs) Consider Kesri's locus standi and consider the former prime minister's contributions. Your question is really irrelevant.

Can you sum up why you are opposing Kesri?

He is a misfit as Congress president and CPP leader, he has no political base and, therefore, he must go.

The Rediff Interview

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