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'MPs' letter was given to Congress leadership 10 days ago'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
Last updated on: August 19, 2020 08:09 IST
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'This letter assumes significance as it is for the first time that a letter has been documented and collectively agreed upon.'

IMAGE: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with other party leaders at the All India Congress Committee headquarters in New Delhi. Photograph: PTI Photo
 

Sanjay Jha -- former national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress -- is making more news since being suspended from the party than before disciplinary action was taken against him.

His latest tweet on Monday, that 100 Congress members have written to interim party President Sonia Gandhi seeking a change in the leadership and a transparent election, concluding with 'watch this space', caused a sensation in the grand old party at a time when the issue of Facebook links with the Bharatiya Janata Party was the talk of town.

"I am a committed Congressman by ideology which I cannot say about 99 percent of the Congressmen who are in the party" Sanjay Jha tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, dismissing charges of collusion with the BJP.

The first of a two-part interview:

Your tweet has caused a flutter in the party. What were you referring to?

There is a letter signed by 100 members of the Congress party including former chief ministers and members of Parliament and this letter expresses the concerns and worries of these veteran experienced leaders who have fought on the ground for a long time for the Congress party.

They have said in the letter that they are worried about where the party is headed.

This letter assumes significance as it is for the first time that a letter has been documented and collectively agreed upon and delivered to the Congress leadership -- about 10 days ago.

But where is the letter? What exactly does it say?

This letter will be put out in the public domain after all signatories come out as it is their (Congress party's) code of conduct.

This is an internal party issue and it is up to them to decide whether they want to put it in the public domain or not.

As to what the contents of the letter are, I wrote in my tweet clearly that the issue is about internal democracy in the party and they need to create more platforms where discussions can happen and people can shape the (political) campaign and do strategy.

The other issue is about the Congress president's post as there is no permanent head since Rahul Gandhi resigned last year. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is the interim president of the party for the last one year.

These are sending a very wrong message to the people of India that the interim president is holding the post for one year and that too at a time when the party has lost two consecutive parliamentary elections winning 44 and 52 seats.

It does not make the Congress look hungry or competitive to reclaim its space which they lost.

And the third important element in the letter says there has to be fair and transparent elections to the most powerful body that is the Congress Working Committee.

Randeep Surjewala says your tweet is not true, it is motivated by the BJP and that you are acting like a stooge of the BJP by circulating such news.

He has to defend the indefensible. I can understand his predicament.

His statement is outrageous, bizarre and a blatant lie because I have myself tweeted and also said publicly that the alleged collusion between the BJP and Facebook based on the Wall Street Journal report is a very serious issue.

We all know what social media can do in terms of manipulation of public opinion by distributing fake news. We all know that the BJP's IT cell is professional and a master in that.

The biggest social media platform in the world, that is WhatsApp with Facebook, if they are playing favourites, then there are serious consequences for Indian democracy.

And I believe every Opposition party including the Congress has a legitimate right to question that.

I am glad that Congress member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor is calling for an investigation and therefore to say that I have tweeted this issue at this time to divert attention from the Facebook-BJP links is absolutely ridiculous. It falls flat on its face.

To call me a BJP stooge is nothing but humour because if you see my Twitter bio you will see that I am a committed Congressman by ideology which I cannot say about 99 percent of the Congressmen who are in the party.

Since you mentioned Facebook let me remind you that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has 14 times more followers than Rahul Gandhi. He is nowhere close to Modi's popularity on social media.

There is no denying that Modi is India's most popular leader in India today. To understand why, look at the reality.

Since the BJP won the elections in 2019, the Indian economy is in doldrums, farmers are in distress, jobs have vanished and unemployment is at a record high.

There is an air of authoritarianism in the country and you have border problems with China.

Migrants became a humanitarian crisis.

In the pandemic India will soon catch up with America and fatalities are rising and yet Modi is the most popular leader in India. People don't see an alternative to him.

That is a commentary on Modi's ability to change and impress Indian public perception with his ersonal charisma.

The other part tells you that the Congress has not been able to stem the tide against him or the fact that there is no formidable opponent to the BJP after several monumental disasters.

It tells you that people are not seeing the Congress as an alternative to Modi.

This is what I have been saying, you need a renewal within the party and look into leadership all over again.

Therefore, a dramatic and drastic change is needed.

Do you believe internal elections can be held for the CWC? Is it at all possible?

Otherwise, I believe if the Congress party does not bring in internal democracy within and we continue to be seen as a party dominated by cabals and caucuses.

There is no way people will believe that this party is truly ready to take up the challenges of India's economic and politics crisis.

India wants to see greater transparency not just within the country but within political parties who represent them.

The perception that we have become very family-centric or the fact that dynastic succession works in the Congress is going to hurt the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi must be appreciated, applauded and admired for resigning as Congress president and telling the CWC to please select or elect leader in a proper procedural manner.

And it is over a year that the CWC did nothing about it and this is damaging the Congress party perception.

Besides the Gandhi family who are the national leaders in the Congress party who can attract crowds?
Rasheed Kidwai told me that Congress candidates demand the Gandhis to campaign because they are the stars of the party. The Congress has no other pan-India face.

Until you try out the experiment you will never know.

Until you are given a chance you will never know who can perform.

You remember Rajiv Gandhi had no political experience in 1984 and at least from 1984 to 1987, the political accords he signed (were good). He made many progressive changes like the computer revolution. It looked like a golden period in India's overall history.

A golden period for India or the Congress party? Because what Rajiv Gandhi did in his tenure was a disaster, wasn't it?

Later on, yes, you can say that that from 1987 to 1989 things collapsed. But you had major accords signed in the north est and then Punjab and he handled them well.

Larger point, one has to understand that at the end of the day the Congress needs to put new faces up there in the front when Rahul Gandhi himself has said that he does not want to lead the Congress party nor anyone from the Gandhi family. This is the message coming from the horse's mouth.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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