'When I said the Gandhi family had to step aside, it was because we have consistently seen that the public has not accepted them.'
It is interesting that a party that had a humiliating defeat in the five assembly elections, a party that has been facing defeat after defeat in recent elections, needs a chintan shibir to locate the reasons behind its failures.
But then the Congress party needs a 'chintan shivir' to analyse it.
'Americai' V Narayanan, an All India Congress Committee member from Tamil Nadu, has been a Gandhi family loyalist. But losing the five state elections made him ask the Gandhis to 'step aside' to 'save the party and the nation'.
The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president has barred Narayanan from expressing his views on television although he is a spokesperson of the party.
"While I give them credit for working hard, I want to tell them, you are not effective. That's why I am requesting them to step aside in the interest of the party and the nation," 'Americai' Narayanan, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.
Part 1 of a two-part interview:
You have been barred from speaking on television for asking the Gandhis to step down.
After the Congress's worst-ever performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, T H Mustafa, a Congressman from Kerala, said Rahul Gandhi was incapable of fighting Narendra Modi. He was suspended from the party.
Do you think the biggest problem with the Congress is that anyone who criticises the Gandhis is sent on his way out?
In 2014 when Mustafa made that comment, I also would have said he was wrong.
But today I am talking very logically and not emotionally.
When I said the Gandhi family had to step aside, and not step out, it was because we have consistently seen that the public has not accepted them.
If there is an election within the Congress, even if it is a secret ballot, they will win hands down.
Now, let me give you another example. Every time we criticise Modi, the bhakts of Modi say we are criticising India. When you criticise demonetisation as a disaster, you are branded anti-national.
So, those who are criticising me and suspending me are doing exactly what the Modi bhakts are doing.
Why do you bring in Narendra Modi into this? Those who criticise the Gandhis have been meeting with the same fate for a long time.
You are absolutely right. I am just drawing a parallel. You cannot disagree with me when I say that people are branded anti-national when you question Modi.
The reason I am bringing in Modi here is, the Congressmen should understand that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Like the country is bigger than the prime minister or the prime minister's office, the Congress party is much bigger than the Gandhis.
I am not forgetting the sacrifices made by the Gandhi family.
After every election debacle, we see a resignation drama. Then the coterie around them pleads for a withdrawal saying the Congress will not survive without them. And it is back to the status quo.
US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, 'The buck stops here'.
But here, if everything goes well, the leader gets the credit and if everything goes wrong, everybody else gets the blame.
A good leader should understand that the buck stops at his table.
The PCC presidents in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh were asked to resign after the debacle, but the top leadership remains...
Let me be clear about one thing: Priyanka and Rahul are responsible for what happened in Punjab as much as the state leaders. I am not saying they alone are responsible.
Even Mahatma Gandhi had been the president of the Congress only one time. They kept changing the leadership in those days. Similarly, no individual should be the leader for too long because the organisation is bigger than any leader.
In UP, Priyanka Gandhi campaigned extensively, but 97% of the Congress candidates lost their deposits....
The UP debacle started with Narasimha Rao, and we have not been able to come back after that.
Priyanka worked really hard, but the writing was on the wall.
Does it not show that people have no faith in them?
Absolutely. While I give them credit for working hard, I want to tell them, you are not effective. That's why I am requesting them to step aside in the interest of the party and the nation.
Once Rahul Gandhi said he wanted to go around the country like the Mahatma and identify local leaders. But he has been with the party for so long, but has not created even one local leader.
Do you feel the party has become undemocratic?
I have been in politics for the last 23 years. So, I know that there is only a semblance of democracy in the so-called democratic parties.
Nobody questions you if you are winning. Unfortunately, we are not winning.
If the Congress is not winning, it is not good for the country.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com