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January 22, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/Bhuvanesh Chaturvedi

'What was Kesri? A lackey who became party treasurer through sheer sycophancy'

Power struggle within the Congress party is nothing new. And it is inevitable whenever there is a change at the top, like there was when Sitaram Kesri took over as party president from P V Narasimha Rao. The tradition is for the new incumbent to purge the key posts of the appointees of his predecessor, and Kesri was no different.

Among those he weeded out was Bhuvanesh Chaturvedi, minister of state in the PMO during Rao's prime ministership. Naturally, Chaturvedi spews acid when Kesri's name is mentioned in his presence, as is evident in this interview with Tara Shankar Sahay:

What is your reaction to Sitaram Kesri denying a ticket to P V Narasimha Rao for this election?

Only a mean and a lowly person will stoop to the level of denying a ticket to Narasimha Raoji who has not only been the prime minister but also the former Congress president. What was Kesri before? A lackey who managed to retain the party treasurer's office through sheer sycophancy. Even after becoming party president, Kesri went to Narasimha Raoji and touched his feet. Then he showed his true colours and started acting vindictive. But if you ask me. frankly, I am not surprised. Kesri has no shame.

But isn't it a Congress tradition that a person who becomes the party president sidelines his potential rivals within the party for self-preservation?

No, the Congress tradition is quite different from what Kesri has been doing. Did Narasimha Raoji forget Rajiv Gandhi or the contribution of the Nehru-Gandhi family? He always acknowledged their contribution. The true test of a great leader is that he is magnanimous in victory and graceful in defeat. But the present Congress chief has shown the utterly mean streak in him by his actions, which is disgusting party men all over the country.

Former Congress general secretary B P Maurya, who was known as a staunch supporter of Narasimha Rao, has just joined the BJP. Is it because of disenchantment with Kesri's leadership?

I will not, indeed, cannot comment on why Maurya joined the BJP. But everybody knows that ever since the Congress began sliding downhill under Kesri's leadership, a large number of party men indicated that it was better to go elsewhere than stay in the party. However, many Congressmen are hopeful that Kesri is a temporary phenomenon and that he will fade into oblivion because he is a nonentity.

What is Rao likely to do now?

If you mean that he might leave the party, certainly no. However, it is better that you address your question to the appropriate person.

Do you think Sonia Gandhi's advent into active politics will benefit the Congress?

Look here, I told you Kesri will sound the death-knell of the Congress and I mean it. If Congressmen are looking up to her to show the way, provide direction, it is only natural because nobody trusts Kesri.

But will Sonia be able to lift the Congress out of its present morass?

I hope so.

What do you think about the UF and the BJP?

The BJP is a communal outfit, so that's that. As for the UF, it has failed to deliver the goods. The coalition hotchpotch has many contradictions.

What, according to you, would be the likely outcome of the forthcoming poll?

The BJP has once again started its communal refrain so it will lose votes. Under the circumstances I think there will be a coalition once again at the Centre.

The Rediff Election Interviews

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