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Rediff.com  » News » Exclusive: Will fight against Modi if party asks, says Digvijaya

Exclusive: Will fight against Modi if party asks, says Digvijaya

Last updated on: March 28, 2014 22:01 IST

Will fight against Modi if party asks, says Digvijaya

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Anita Katyal in New Delhi

All India Congress Committee general secretary and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digjvijaya Singh has a penchant for stirring up controversies. In a party whose leaders are shy of speaking up, Singh does not hesitate to do so, even taking on his own government.

He created a storm when he raised questions about the Batla House police encounter and publicly disapproved the United Progressive Alliance government’s policy of tackling left wing extremism. Singh has been equally vocal in hitting out at Congress opponents, whether it is Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi or Aam Admi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal.

Singh is currently in the headlines following reports that the Congress could field him in Varanasi to take on his bete noire Modi. The party is yet to name its candidate.

In an exclusive interview with Rediff.com’s Anita Katyal, Singh speaks about his candidature from Varanasi, the party’s prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and how the Congress is likely to fare in Andhra Pradesh.

There are reports that the Congress could field you against Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Will you take on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate?

I don’t know anything about it, nobody in the party has asked or suggested that I should contest from Varanasi. Of course, I did say that if I am asked by the party to contest, I’ll not hesitate to do so. But there is no dearth of candidates in the party.

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'Modi isn't God...no dearth of Cong candidates to take him on'

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In your opinion, who is the most suitable candidate to fight against Modi? There is also a suggestion that Congress president Sonia Gandhi or Priyanka Vadra would be excellent choices.

I cannot say who would be the best choice for this contest. A decision has to be taken after internal discussions with local leaders… let them discuss and decide.

In any case, Modi is not God, there are number of candidates in the Congress who would be willing to take him on… we are not short of good candidates.

Why do you think the BJP is fielding Modi from Varanasi?

He is being fielded because the BJP wants to polarise the electorate in eastern Uttar Pradesh just as it did in western Uttar Pradesh. It is the USP of the BJP to polarise the polity… we saw this during the temple movement.

Their vote share shot up because of the communal passions unleashed by the BJP…its strategy is to create disturbances as it did in Muzaffarnagar.

But I am confident that the BJP will not succeed in Varanasi…it has a Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb. Efforts have been made in the past to disturb this city’s composite culture but with little success.

The people of this city are very secular-minded. Both the local mufti and the mahant have worked together to stop communal riots in the past…that is the strength of Varanasi.

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'I don't take Kejriwal too seriously'

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Arvind Kejriwal has decided to fight against Modi in Varanasi.... this has sent out a message that the Congress has given up its fight against the BJP, Modi in particular.

I don’t take Kejriwal too seriously… I don’t have a great opinion about him because I know him too well. The media is enamoured with Kejriwal as he is a new phenomenon in politics. As for all the issues he has raised about the development record of the Modi government in Gujarat… the Congress has been saying the same for the past two years but the media did not pick it up. All what Kejriwal has said, has already been said before by us.

Nobody was willing to believe you because the credibility of the Congress has hit an all-time low.

The media has decided that we have lost credibility. It is for the people to decide. I must point out here that the difference in the vote share of the two parties in Gujarat is only 2-3 per cent.

Recently, the Congress drew attention to a huge scam in Madhya Pradesh but the media did not print a word. Is the media acting judiciously? That is my grouse against the media.

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Image: AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal conducting a road show in Varanasi
Photographs: Sandeep Pal/Rediff.com

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'I always see the glass is half full and not half empty'

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How do you assess the Congress party’s prospects in next month’s Lok Sabha polls? From all accounts, the Congress appears to be on a weak wicket.

I am an optimist. I always see the glass is half full and not half empty. It is not correct to generalise. I would say that the Congress is inching ahead. There are places where we are strong and there are states where the BJP has no presence…where is the BJP in Kerala, Odisha, Seemandhra, Telangana? We all have our strong and weak points… you must understand that politics has changed and become more state-specific with the emergence of regional parties.

But it is a fact that many senior Congress leaders, including PCC chiefs, were not keen on contesting these elections.

By and large, there is no nervousness or despondency in the Congress to fight elections. As for PCC chiefs, I am of the firm opinion that they should not contest elections. If they are fighting elections, who will manage the campaign in the state?

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Image: Rahul Gandhi greets supporters during a road show in Gujarat
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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'Tewari wanted to go back to his bastion but that didn't happen'

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There is the case of Manish Tewari and P Chidambaram who opted out of the race.

Manish Tewari had a personal angle…Ludhiana is not his home constituency. He has lived and done his politics in Chandigarh and he wanted to go back there but that did not happen .... so he decided not to contest.

As for Chidambaram, he opted out as he is touching 70 years. And there is a generational change taking place in the Congress.

I agree with Jairam Ramesh’s suggestion that politicians should retire at the age of 70.

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'KCR went back on his promise of merging TRS with Cong'

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As AICC general secretary incharge of Andhra Pradesh, how do you rate the Congress chances there?

As far as Telangana is concerned, the Congress is quite upbeat, but we have a problem in the rest of Andhra Pradesh. There is nervousness in the party here but it is slowly improving.

When our leaders in Seemandhra took out a bus yatra recently, they found a large number of people returning to them.

As for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, it had promised to merge with us after the formation of Telangana, but the party chief went back on his word. I guess everybody has a right to decide how they want to do politics. We were prepared for an alliance but we are not shying away from fighting on our own.

But the Congress will have a tough time fighting on its own, a partnership with TRS would have definitely helped your party in Telangana.

That’s not true. In 2009, the TRS won ten seats while the Congress won more than 55 seats in the assembly elections. You must not forget that Telangana was given by the Congress… could a two-member TRS have got the bill passed in the Lok Sabha?

It was the political will demonstrated by the Congress and its leadership which delivered Telangana…. and the people understand this.

 


Image: TRS chief K Chandrashekara Rao addressing mediapersons in Hyderabad
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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