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'Congress Will Collapse Without Gandhis'

June 19, 2024 13:56 IST
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'What matters is policies, not personalities like Priyanka, Rahul or Modi.'

IMAGE: Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra with party President Mallikarjun Kharge, party General Secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal and Rahul Gandhi when it was announced that she would contest the Wayanad Lok Sabha seat which her brother vacated, June 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

"Indian politics is slowly shifting towards people's issues. Identity politics has limited longevity. Unemployment, inflation and other people's issues are gaining importance in our country. We have seen examples of this in the election outcome of Ayodhya and Varanasi," P Sandosh Kumar, the CPI Rajya Sabha member from Kerala, tells's Archana Masih in a telephone interview, discussing Priyanka Gandhi's electoral debut from Kerala.


Now that the Congress has announced that Priyanka Gandhi will contest the Lok Sabha by-election in Wayanad, what is going to be the CPI strategy? Your candidate Annie Raja lost the election by over three-and-a-half lakhs to Rahul Gandhi just a few weeks ago.

Kerala politics is divided into the United Democratic Front and Left Democratic Front.

The LDF began in 1980, this is the 44th year of its inception. During these years, we have contested all the elections -- from local body up to the Rajya and Lok Sabha.

There is a sharp, clear-cut division between the LDF/UDF/BJP.

Since Priyanka Gandhi is contesting as a UDF candidate, we have no option but to contest against her.

IMAGE: Priyanka with Kharge and Rahul after the decision to field her from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency was announced, June 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Who will be your candidate? Will Annie Raja, a member of the CPI's national executive, contest again?

Who will be the candidate and what will be the strategy has to be discussed with senior colleagues. The CPI has a system and we will decide accordingly, but I can assure you that we will be contesting from Wayanad.

Priyanka has been credited with the Congress victories in Amethi, Raebareli and the party's performance in UP.
How will her entry into politics strengthen the Congress in Kerala, and southern states like Karnataka, Telangana, possibly Andhra?

Personality cult and personality-based politics is diminishing and Narendra Modi is a classic example. He emerged as the top-most leader of the Hindutva brand and what happened in the last election? His victory margin fell by 1.5 lakhs.

Personality cult can only bring results in the short term. In the long run, what matters is policy. Policies stand the test of time and can be worked to your advantage -- not personalities like Priyanka, Rahul, Modi or anybody else.

Rahul Gandhi was very much here; he was the sitting MP during the 2021 assembly election in Kerala, but the LDF returned victorious.

We went from 91 to 99 seats because of our policies and it was the first time that an incumbent government was voted back to power in 40 years.

What Priyanka brings to Kerala politics is for the Congress party to decide. In the assembly election, they campaigned actively, attending programmes from Trivandrum to Kasargod and in spite of that the LDF retained its government in Kerala.

So it is nothing unusual, we will fight and our strategy will be finalised. We are ready to face anything.

IMAGE: Kharge makes a point as Congress Parliamentary Party Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Priyanka and Venugopal listen carefully during the meeting to decide which Lok Sabha seat Rahul will keep and who will contest the vacated seat, June 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

You say the personality cult is diminishing, but Rahul Gandhi won by a margin of 364,000 votes which shows that the personality cult is very much alive in this particular constituency.

That is true, but the truth is also that the personality cult is diminishing. In Wayanad, Rahul Gandhi's victory margin has decreased in 2024 compared to 2019.

This was his second time and if you do not work for the constituency and help people, you cannot depend purely on personality politics.

Even though Rahul Gandhi won with over three-and-a-half lakhs, his cult of personality has diminished.

Indian politics is slowly shifting towards people's issues. Identity politics has limited longevity. Unemployment, inflation and other people's issues are gaining importance in our country. We have seen examples of this in the election outcome of Ayodhya and Varanasi. In 2029, people's issues will be the main agenda.

Will Priyanka's charisma help the party in Kerala and southern India?

Their strategy is Rahul Gandhi in north India and Priyanka in south India. Dynasty democracy is going to prevail. It will benefit the Congress, but will not last long.

I have high regard for the Congress because it has a role in Indian politics. It is a force that can fight the BJP.

IMAGE: Sonia and Priyanka listen to Kharge making a point at Monday's meeting on whether Rahul should keep Raebareli or Wayanad, June 17, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The BJP is attacking the Congress about the cult of dynasty now that there will be three members of the family in Parliament.

That is the fate of the Congress party. The party will collapse without the Gandhi family.

The LDF has been wiped out of Kerala in the Lok Sabha. How is it likely to regain influence in the state?

In 2019, our performance was very poor in the state, we managed to just win one seat out of 20. We lost the Left bastions of north Kerala and returned within two years to win 99 seats in the assembly.

[The Left won only one Lok Sabha seat in 2024.]

In Kerala, the pattern for voting in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha are completely different. In the Lok Sabha, people support the Congress, but in the assembly, it is the LDF.

But that does not mean that we have nothing to learn. We are introspecting and will overcome this setback.

IMAGE: CPI MP P Sandosh Kumar (in blue shirt) escorts Annie Raja, the party candidate from Wayanad, on her way to file her nomination for the Lok Sabha elections. Photograph: ANI Photo

The BJP has made significant gains in Kerala. The state BJP president came third in Wayanad. Is the BJP emerging as a credible threat to the UDF and LDF?

I will not call it a serious threat, but it is a reality and we have to address it. I agree the BJP has made achievements by emerging as the third party. But at the national level, the BJP is getting diminished slowly. We will surely overcome their presence in Kerala.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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