'Rahul Gandhi is still confused'
‘Rahul Gandhi is still confused. But he is unable to decide whether the party should be strengthened from within or from outside.'
‘Rahul went to colleges and universities to enlist the support of the youth. But look what has happened… they have gravitated to the Aam Admi Party.’
‘Congress workers should have the confidence that if they give Rahul feedback about the party and he is convinced with the information he has received, he will pick up the telephone and give the necessary orders’
‘Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia have destroyed the party in Madhya Pradesh. In fact, they are hand-in-glove with the BJP...’
In a freewheeling interview with rediff.com’s Anita Katyal, former hockey champion Aslam Sher Khan says that declaring Rahul as PM candidate is not that important. Instead, what is really need is for Rahul to win the trust and confidence of party workers through his actions
The old guard in the Congress appears to have convinced party president Sonia Gandhi not to project Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
Although there will be no announcement on Rahul on Friday, the party made it clear that the Nehru-Gandhi scion will lead the party’s campaign in the coming general election, an indirect acknowledgement that he will be the party’s prime ministerial choice in case the Congress comes back to power.
The Congress hopes that this message will be enough to enthuse party workers who have been feeling demoralised since the dismal outcome of the recent assembly polls.
While younger leaders had been pressing the leadership to pick Rahul as PM nominee, the senior party leaders, led by AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, maintained that the upcoming general elections should not be converted into a presidential-style contest between Rahul and Modi and that instead of making it personality-centric, it should be a battle between two parties, their ideologies and programmes.
Former hockey champion Aslam Sher Khan, who was a minister in the Narasimha Rao government, is among those Congress leaders who believe that Rahul should win the trust and confidence of party workers through his actions.
In an exclusive interview to rediff.com’s Anita Katyal, he spoke about the mood in the party, Rahul’s style of working and the health of the organisation in his home state Madhya Pradesh.
Do you think it would help if Rahul was formally declared the party's Prime Ministerial candidate?
I believe that these announcements are not important. It is not a big deal. After all, it is well known that Rahul is the party's future leader and will be leading the Congress campaign in the coming Lok Sabha elections. What is more important is that he takes charge, demonstrates his leadership in the party through quick, decisive actions.
If he starts acting decisively, that itself will go a long way in lifting the mood of the party rank and file. Rahul will automatically win the trust and confidence of the party workers.
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'Rahul must remember that he is the vice-president of a 128-year-old party'
Rahul has been Congress vice-president for a year now. Do you think he has lived up to the expectations of the cadres? Has he brought in necessary changes in the organisation about which he has been talking about?
I think he is still confused. He wants to make systematic changes in the organisation… that is good and it is needed. But, in my view, Rahul is unable to decide whether the party should be strengthened from within or from outside.
Rahul has been saying that he wants that the aam aadmi should have access to power and position in the party. But to achieve this, he has to transform the organisation from within and ensure that the party is made accessible to that last man.
Rahul must remember that he is the vice-president of a 128-year-old party which has a rich history, values and an ideology. The party has the resources and the inner strength to correct itself, to face adversities and emerge stronger.
The Congress does not have to look outside for help and support. Why do we have to bring leaders from outside like Madhusudan Mistry or Mohan Prakash? We should look within for the answers.... strengthen the party from within.
Take the case of the Youth Congress. Elections were held in the organisation at Rahul’s behest as he wanted to democratise the body. But the results show that people with money power and family connections eventually managed to win.
This process was also outsourced.
Again, the Youth Congress has its own system and infrastructure. May be, it needed to be streamlined, but this could have been done by using the resources available within the organisation.
Rahul went to colleges and universities to enlist the support of the youth. But look what has happened… they have gravitated to the Aam Admi Party.
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'Party workers want Rahul to take firm decisions and actions'
So what are the expectations of Congress cadres from Friday’s AICC meeting? What is the mood like in the party?
Obviously, the mood is not very good after the party's defeat in the last assembly elections. The workers are feeling very low and subdued.
As I said earlier, more than an announcement declaring Rahul a prime ministerial candidate, they want a decisive and accountable leadership.
They would like Rahul to take firm decisions and actions. He should not bother about others’ reactions while acting.
The workers should have the confidence that if they give Rahul feedback about the party and he is convinced with the information he has received, he will pick up the telephone and give the necessary orders.
The workers should feel they are being heard... they should not go back feeling that their grievances are not going to be addressed or that a decision is not going to be made in a hurry. Rahul has to be authoritative like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi. You have to be in that frame of mind.
Most importantly, the workers should be given a clear message that decisions will not be imposed on them from Delhi, which is what is happening at present. It is imperative to change this system so that block, district and state-level leaders are involved in the decision-making process.
The party cadres live in hope... they hope that leaders will realise their mistakes and take corrective steps.
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'Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia have destroyed the party in Madhya Pradesh'
You recently came out strongly against Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia. How have they handled party affairs in Madhya Pradesh?
The problem is that these three leaders have convinced themselves and the Congress leadership that the party unit in Madhya Pradesh would wither away and die if it was not for them.
On the contrary, these three leaders have destroyed the party in the state. These three leaders do not have the capacity to revive MP Congress.
They are only interested in winning their own election.
In fact, they are hand-in-glove with the BJP, especially Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who helps them win their seats.
They are not bothered about the rest of the party.
I challenge Shivraj Singh Chouhan. If he is such a great leader, why can’t he defeat these three senior Congress leaders in their constituencies?