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'Congress ke paas paisa kahan hai?'

Last updated on: March 07, 2024 10:19 IST
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'Everyone knows there is no point in contesting elections from Gujarat as a Congress candidate because they know they will be wiped out.'

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the party's Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. Photograph: ANI Photo

"I was likely to get a (Congress) ticket (to fight the Lok Sabha election), but who wants to go bankrupt by spending Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore in a Lok Sabha election from his own pocket?", Naran Rathwa, a six-time Congress MP from Gujarat who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on February 27, tells Prasanna D Zore/ in the concluding segment of a must-read interview.

So, you accepted defeat and decided to join BJP?

Yes, I have joined the BJP. If I hadn't, it would only harm us and result in losses for our supporters and workers.

I don't have any problems with the Congress. It made me an MP for six times (five times from the Lok Sabha and once from the Rajya Sabha, in 2018), made me a Union minister, but today the ground reality has changed dramatically.

I became an MP for the first time in 1989 when the Congress had a winning formula, but today the ground has slipped from under our feet. Aaj ka mahaul poora badal gaya hai (Today the political scenario has changed completely in Gujarat).

Who else is planning to leave the Gujarat Congress and join the BJP?

Our workers will leave us (the Congress) in large numbers and they have been doing so since 2010.

What responsibilities will you get in the BJP? Are you looking at yourself as the party's Lok Sabha candidate?

I will get some role to play in the party organisation.

Is your son Sangramsinh Rathwa likely to get a Lok Sabha ticket?

Nahi, abhi kuch nahi (nothing of that sort will happen).

You said you were close to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi. Any advice for them on how the Congress could rejuvenate itself in Gujarat?

The Congress gave me a lot, but as an organisation it is down in the dumps today at the central level as well as in Gujarat. They will have to do something to bring new life into it.

Who can handle the responsibility of bringing back new life when leaders like you are quitting the party?

How can you reform a party when people are quitting it in droves?

What can we do when people reject our ideas, our vision?

Rural people in the state have been greatly influenced by micro schemes started by (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji. People are not willing to listen to you (the Congress party) in Gujarat.

If leaders are quitting the Congress in large numbers in Gujarat, then what is its future in the state?

In 2019, they (the BJP) won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats and in 2024 the Congress is unable to find candidates to fight elections in all the 26 seats.

The Congress is starved of resources and nobody wants to spend money from their own home and fight elections. Everyone knows there is no point in contesting elections from the state as a Congress candidate because they know they will all be wiped out.

Even I was likely to get a (Congress) ticket (to fight the Lok Sabha election), but who wants to go bankrupt by spending Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore in a Lok Sabha election from his own pocket?

What is the position of the Congress as a political party in Gujarat?

It has terrible weakened and continues to weaken with every passing moment.

Will the Congress no longer exist in Gujarat?

It will be there, but it will be just some ordinary, nominal, party. The Congress needs to become a result-oriented party. People should be held accountable. You are losing elections to the district panchayat, taluka panchayat, and mahanagarpalika (municipal corporations).

Grassroots voters in Gujarat are absolutely under Modiji's sway.

Today, the people (political leaders as well as the voters of Gujarat) are going to where the cream is. They know their jobs will be done only if they are with the BJP.

IMAGE: Congress Rajya Sabha MP Naran Rathwa, who joined the BJP on February 27, with Gujarat BJP president C R Paatil.

Just like what you did...

What else could I have done? I cannot spend so much on elections; the party is in no position to spend. What can I do in such a situation?

Now, even the Income Tax seized the party account (the account was later unfrozen).

Ordinary party workers who donated amounts like Rs 138, Rs 1,380, Rs 13,800, even these funds are now difficult to access (by the Congress). Congress ke paas paisa kahan hai? (the Congress has no funds)?

This is our biggest problem. The organisation is weakening continually and those who are AICC office bearers are not working honestly to uplift the Congress's fortunes. They are just decorative pieces who have adorned themselves with fancy posts. Aur kaam kuch karte nahi hai (They are all good for nothing).

Who are these AICC office bearers?

The people who are adorning positions should introspect.

Is Rahul Gandhi responsible for the Congress' misfortunes in Gujarat?

No, Rahul Gandhi is not responsible. But all those office bearers who are working under (national party president Mallikarjun) Khargeji and Rahul Gandhi are not doing an honest job of reviving the Congress party.

We held onto the tribal citadel for Congress for decades, but this time (in the 2022 assembly election) we won only four seats from 14 districts. Isn't this proof of how weak we have become?

How much money can ordinary workers spend from their own pocket every day? Let me give you an example.

Now, Rahulji will be doing a programme in Gujarat. For that the state unit of Congress has to gather people in lakhs. Will the party fork out money needed for such preparations? It is we who have to spend from our own pockets.

Jeep drivers charge anywhere between Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 to transport people to the venue. Unko shandar meeting toh karna hai lekin meeting kar ke har baar unko seats nahi milti hai (The Congress leadership wants a grand public meeting, but despite all that they don't win significant seats in Gujarat).

I am speaking straight from my heart. Meri narazi bhi hai lekin meri Congress se abhi bhi mohabbat hai (I am upset with the party, but I still love the party). Lekin mohabbat saath main rakh ke baad main dukh sehan karna padta hai (the only result of my love is a lot of pain).

Won't you saying you still love the Congress upset BJP which you joined only a week ago?

What I am saying (in my defence) is I have to adapt to the situation on the ground. Why should my constituents, my voters and workers suffer because of my mohabbat?

To revive the Congress they will need lot of dedication, money and organisational strength. Those who are still with the party are also feeling lost by spending money from their own pockets.

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