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'Congress needs a young leader like Sachin Pilot'

March 21, 2022 10:48 IST
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'You need a leader whom India can identify with and I cannot think of any other leader except Sachin Pilot in the Congress party.'

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi leaves after the Congress Working Committee concludes its meeting, March 13, 2022. Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo

Is the Congress party finished?

Or can its fast-dwindling electoral fortunes still be revived?

What must the party do to counter the BJP's cornering of the Hindu vote?

"The people surrounding the leadership are one of the biggest threats that the Congress party has," Sanjay Jha, author of The Great Unravelling: India After 2014 and The Superstar Syndrome: Making of a Champion and a former Congress spokesperson, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ in the concluding segment of a two-part interview.

We are blaming the Gandhis, but if one sees the Hindu vote in UP for the Opposition parties, it is not big. Only 27 percent of Hindus voted for the Samajwadi Party while 54 percent voted for the BJP.

In this scenario, where the BJP takes 50 percent of Hindu votes, how can any Opposition party win? Clearly, Hindu voters trust the BJP more.

At the end of the day, the more there is political polarisation, the more the BJP will win.

Today, for example, if there is a constituency with a strong Muslim vote presence, the BJP has found a model that Hindus will vote for them irrespective of the issues.

As a result, the BJP is not bothered about minority votes which is why they do not give tickets to any minorities.

They don't have any pretensions about the fact that they are playing pure communal politics.

Is that the only reason the BJP wins? What about Roti and Ram? Direct Benefit Transfer of cash and rations in poor people's account -- don't these things matter to the poor?

This whole issue of delivery and welfare -- every government does it. The state governments do it too.

The Congress has given the biggest welfare to the poor, so why did it not win in 2014?

It does not happen like that. A government's job is to have welfare. It is the government's job to provide food, electricity and housing. Every party does it. So why does only the BJP win?

It is just a BJP spin statement. How can you say the government will not provide food when the country is hit by a pandemic? It is the job of the government to do that.

How will the Opposition parties then win over Hindu voters who vote for the BJP? Blaming the Gandhis is easy, but which Opposition party can take back the Hindu vote from the BJP?

The only way you can do it is by having the courage to speak up for secularism without appearing defensive.

I have not seen the Congress party or any other Opposition party other than Mamata Banerjee to some extent who speaks up boldly for a secular India.

Almost the entire Opposition, and particularly the Congress party, seems overweighed by the accusation of minority appeasement, and that is the problem.

You need to get up and speak up to defend the country's Constitution. How many parties are doing it? (No one) so the BJP is having s free reign.

Unfortunately, the Opposition does not have a leader who can go out and speak out about the idea of India.

Now you have a new idea of India which is about recreating a majoritarian Hindu Rashtra and that is the reality.

The Congress has ruled India for 54 out of the 74 years since Independence. And now you see it end like the Whigs party of Great Britain, only to be replaced by the Aam Aadmi Party.

Anything is possible. The Congress is dwindling and diminishing. The Congress will soon become history unless it does something very drastically.

To start with, it needs to change its leadership.

You wrote recently that Sachin Pilot must sit in the cockpit of the Congress party.

If you look deep within the Congress party, they don't have any other choice as many leaders have left the party.

How will things be different if Pilot leads the party?

First thing will be to get rid of these backroom boys which the Congress leadership is surrounded with.

There are people who I call a Trojan Horse in the group.

If somebody is fixing surveys to change the mind of the leadership, then that is the height of immorality.

In my opinion, the people surrounding the leadership are one of the biggest threats that the Congress party has.

Once upon a time you had a caucus and now you have a very different cabal. They are both very dangerous for the future of the Congress party.

And therefore, you need a change of leader.

Hopefully, if there is Sachin Pilot or anybody else, they will pick up people who will not tell them things to please them (like it is happening today in the Congress party).

They will tell them what the leadership needs to do correctly.

These new people will actually believe in the ideology of the Congress party and the Congress party has ignored those very people.

G-23 spoke the truth and they were called traitors. This is not how the party of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru should function.

When Rahul Gandhi resigned after the 2019 election debacle, Sonia Gandhi was not ready to take on the leadership role. Was it the best time for someone in the Congress to take up the leadership mantle of the party which they didn't?

As I told you earlier, the CWC is made up of people who are appointed by the Congress president who after that become subservient, subjugated and supine. They don't have a backbone.

These Congress leaders have the backbone of Éclairs chocolate.

And a few people among them who have spoken honestly, like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma etc, they have been told to go and sit in the backseat.

Is Pilot the only mass leader the Congress has? What about others like Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot? Are they not mass leaders?

The Congress needs a young leader, a communicative leader and a hardworking leader.

This leader can travel all over the country and must be ambitious.

You need a leader whom India can identify with and I cannot think of any other leader except Sachin Pilot in the Congress party.

Among other Congress leaders whom I have respect for are Shashi Tharoor and Manish Tewari.

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