Senior Congress leader and Pro-tem Speaker Kamal Nath has defended Sonia and Rahul Gandhi's decision not to lead the opposition in Lok Sabha. Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN-IBN, Nath also said the Congress will provide an effective opposition.
Transcripts of the interview:
On being the only Congress MP in the Lok Sabha today
Well, yes, today and for the next 24 hours I am the only MP and the Congress has one MP and it’s got 100 percent membership.
When you were sitting on the MPs chair and when you looked at the opposition benches and the treasury benches, didn't your heart skip a beat? Did it suddenly make you realise what has happened to your party that you were down to 44 MPs?
Of course it did because it reflects on so many other Lok Sabhas over the last 33-34 years when we had 100 plus members. Even in the worst case scenarios we had more than 100 members, and now that we look at it we are down to 44.
It does make one reflect on what we need to do in the future because I don’t think anything is permanent in this. So all this is all very momentary.
So you believe this is just a temporary phase…
This euphoria (for the Bharatiya Janata Party) and this sense of despondency (for the Congress) will be there, its natural. But there is no element of permanence in this.
On the approach adopted by the Congress party. Is the Congress not coming to terms with what has happened?
I think the Congress, Mrs Sonia Gandhi & Mr Rahul Gandhi are coming to terms and they are facing it squarely. The most important thing for all political parties, not only for the Congress, is that politics in India is undergoing a rapid and dramatic change, and political parties will have to adapt and adopt that change.
That is a challenge and the Congress also has to change with the changing politics of this country. And that is the first imperative for the party.
But this is not a political theory…
I am not a political theoretician, so I know politics from the grass root. Politics, the aspirations of the people, we must remember that we are the most aspirational society on this planet...how do you serve them?
On who is listening to these changes in the Congress party
I must make it clear that they are listening and they will listen, they will change. It doesn't depend on just Mrs Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi...this is got to go through everybody, to all the senior leadership in the party, that this change is imperative.
The change I am talking about is a structural change, the change at how you'll deal with states where the Congress is in power or the states where the party is not in power? How much will you centralise control, how will you establish leadership there? These are the structural changes which the politics of today is demanding.
Did the Congress in the last 10 years fail to realise the importance which should have been given to state leaders?
Well, several things happened…because if we have come down to 44 seats, it is not one single thing that has happened, there are several things which have happened.
Amongst those several things this is one of them. But an important thing is that when we were in government for 10 years, the way we were projecting our achievements was out of sync and out of tune.
On Rahul Gandhi's approach
Rahul Gandhi wasn’t a member of the government. The government had to project its achievements. It is the primary responsibility of the government to sell and market its achievements.
Of course he (Dr Manmohan Singh) was the government. The fault lies in all of us. We cannot spin it on just Dr Manmohan Singh. It lies in all of us. He (Rahul Gandhi) should have also noticed it but then as I say this change has to come about. We were doing it the wrong way...we couldn’t recognise the right way of marketing.
On Congress failing to realise what was happening on the ground
Let us recognise one thing that in the last decade agricultural prices, procurement prices have been highest. In the last 10 years more people brought more houses than ever, more houses were built, more two/four wheelers were manufactured and sold than ever. But we didn’t take these effectively to the people.
The problem is not what we did but what we did we could not communicate. I think what we did no government has done as much, no government has been able to achieve in all the indices.
On the initial steps taken by the Modi administration, on Modi taking all responsibility on all the policy decisions
Somebody who is eight-days old is doing all these bombastic things and in eight days you are saying that Modi has performed for 5 years.
On Mallikarjun Kharge being chosen as the leader of parliamentary party instead of Rahul or Sonia Gandhi
They decided they want to be in the organisation, it’s always the case...Sushma Swaraj, when she was leader of the opposition, was not a general secretary of the BJP, she was not leading the party.
Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are going to look at the organisational aspects and they are going to strengthen the organisation, especially now that we are only 44...And Parliament also needs to have leader of opposition.
Rahul Gandhi is leading from the front. He was not looking for a scapegoat.
On the choice of the leader of the parliamentary party could have been better
There are so many things that have to be taken in consideration and I think Mrs Gandhi chose what she thought was the best of all things. Among the 44 we have some very competent people; it’s not just the leader of the opposition.
On the equation with the allies
It’s going to play out. It’s not going to be a similar platform, it is going to be issue-based.
If Mayawati demands President's Rule in Uttar Pradesh (over the rising number of rape cases reported and dismal law and order situation) which way will the Congress be?
If they demand it, we will deal with it. Even if its demanded by Mayawati, or may be AIADMK or Trinamool Congress, we will address it at that time because answer does not lie in a resignation necessarily.
On whether (Uttar Pradesh chief minister) Akhilesh Yadav should resign
I do not know the facts so I can’t comment on it, but if this is debated in Parliament it will throw up the facts. Let’s debate the facts in Parliament.
On looking out for a possible grand alliance of parties which are against the BJP
We are talking of looking at floor coordination. We will be doing that and if you think the BJP will have a free run, forget about it. They are not going to have a free run.
Principally ordinances should not be resorted to. The Congress has not discussed whether it will oppose this in Parliament.
On whether being a tough opposition will be a difficult task for the Congress
I don’t think so at all. I think we are going to have a very vibrant, a very active opposition. You must remember that the number of people who voted for the BJP is just 31 per cent. That means 69 per cent of the people in this country have voted against the BJP. Now that is the kind of opposition which all parties, which are not a part of the NDA, will be representing.
Are you in a position to stake claim as the leader of opposition?
It doesn’t matter...it’s a technicality. I am asking you what does leader of opposition bestow on the Congress party? It’s just a position.