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Chidambaram's son: 'Tired slogans won't take us anywhere'

By Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com
November 20, 2014 20:58 IST
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Karti Chidambaram with Sonia Gandhi'We cannot capture the mind space of today's youth by evoking past sacrifices. Politics is about hope; hope for the future.'

'The Congress hankers about the past too much,' Congress leader Karti Chidambaram tells Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com

Karti Chidambaram, former Union minister P Chidambaram's only child, declared that the Congress party in Tamil Nadu did not have the freedom to function the way it wanted to, and that the issues concerning the state party unit should be dealt with by local leaders and not the 'high command'.

In this e-mail interview with Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com, Karti Chidambaram speaks about the current state of the Congress party.

What kind of impact will the breaking away of G K Vasan and his followers have on the Congress in Tamil Nadu?

Anyone leaving the party weakens it, in a way. I am not one who indulges in bravado and I definitely don't subscribe to the view that no matter who leaves the party, it doesn't affect the party.

Every grassroots worker is an asset to the party. But the reasons for Vasan leaving the party could be ulterior.

By forming a small sub regional party, they become ideologically neutral. This allows them to have alliances which could not have been possible from the Congress. An alliance with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is the hidden agenda here.

Why do you feel an alliance with the BJP is Vasan's ulterior motive?

There is no ideological reason for Vasan to float a new party. He is doing what Rangarajan Kumaramangalam did years ago. His new outfit will be ideologically neutral. Anyone who follows or studies politics knows that Vasan is headed to the BJP.

Vasan is not a man with strong beliefs and convictions.

After resigning as state Congress president, Gnanadesikan said he had no authority to take any decisions or authorise anyone to do any work, and that all the authority lay with the 'high command.' How much power or autonomy should a state unit have?

I am not aware of Gnanadesikan's comment. He was a very ineffectual TNCC (Tamil Nadu Congress Committee) president. I prescribe to the Kerala model. State units must have greater autonomy, but within the broad policy and ideological frame work of the party nationally.

After you made statements, TNCC chief E V K S Elangovan asked partymen to air their opinion on the party and its internal matters inside the party and not before the media. What is your reaction to this?

He is in total agreement with the comments I have made. His initial reaction was before he knew what I had said exactly. (Congress General Secretary) Digvijaya Singh and (Karnataka Chief Minister) Siddarammiah have given similar interviews echoing my sentiments since.

Why does the Congress follow the system of the 'high command' taking decisions for a state when only those who live in the state know the ground realities?

I have said that the party must seriously rethink this 'high command'-observer style of management. I am happy to note that Digvijaya Singh has echoed my sentiments.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs in Tamil Nadu; Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi?

The leaders and cadre in the state are responsible for the affairs of the Congress here.

With the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Do you feel it is the right time for the Congress to revive itself to exploit the situation so that it can be a strong force once again in Tamil Nadu?

There is a serious leadership vacuum in Tamil Nadu. But for the Congress to capture mind space, we need a new narrative. Tired and old slogans will not take us anywhere.

You said the Congress needed a new narrative and the old slogans would not work. Can you elaborate on this?

We cannot capture the mind space of today's youth by evoking past sacrifices and achievements. Politics is about hope; hope for the future. The Congress hankers about the past too much. We need to move on.

While I have great respect for K Kamaraj, I don't believe that the slogan 'Kamaraj Rule' has any resonance with the youth today.

The Congress must have a new narrative. It is about progress, jobs, technology, efficiency of governance.

Even with Rahul Gandhi campaigning everywhere, the Congress is losing state after state. Many leaders have started raising their voice against the way he functions. What is your opinion about Rahul Gandhi's working style?

He is the most acceptable and unifying leader of the Congress nationally.

Whenever the Congress wins, the credit goes to the Gandhi family, but when it loses, it is not because of them. Is it right to shield them from criticism all the time?

Everyone takes collective responsibility.

Do you see anybody other than the Gandhis to lead the party at the Centre?

The Congress is a democratic party. The party will choose its leader who is most acceptable to all. This has always been the case.

Whom do you see as the best candidate to revive the Congress in Tamil Nadu?

What we need is collective and collaborative leadership now. Eventually a single dominant and acceptable leader will emerge.

When Shashi Tharoor accepted Modi's Swachch Bharat campaign which is a campaign for the country, he was removed as the spokesperson. Was it a right decision?

The Swachch Bharat programme is nothing but a glorified photo op. No actual plan and follow up to have a holistic solid waste management system.

Image: Karti Chidambaram, right, with Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

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