'The Congress cannot appreciate people with an independent opinion.'
'That's why many people left the party.'
On the eve of the crucial Kerala assembly election, P C Chacko, 74, one of the Congress's senior leaders, resigned from the party citing groupism within the state unit.
Speaking to Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com, Chacko, who joined the Nationalist Congress Party, says, "What I want to do is revive the Congress culture in some form or the other. The Congress is the party that the country needs. And the Congress cannot die."
How bad is it for a country to not have a strong Opposition?
It is bad. India has the maximum number of minority communities, whether it is the Sikhs or the Muslims or the Jains or the Christians.
When the Islamic republic of Pakistan was formed in 1947, we formed the secular Republic of India. And the BJP is going to destroy that.
The Congress is the only guarantee for a secular India. When the Congress fails, we feel miserable and sad.
Anyway, I withdrew from the national scene because I was disillusioned.
And I expected some semblance of democracy in Kerala. When the election committee meeting took place, I said that the list of the probable candidates should be placed before the committee, and then we should have a discussion.
But Ramesh (Chennithala, leader of the Opposition in the Kerala assembly) and (Congress General Secretary Ommen) Chandy refused to place the list on the table. They said they would divide all the seats between them, between the two groups.
I just couldn't agree to this kind of undemocratic functioning, so I complained to Rahul (Gandhi, former Congress president) and Soniaji (interim Congress president) but none of them interfered.
And these two divided the seats like the share in the booty.
But this kind of groupism started during the times of A K Antony and K Karunakaran and what we see today is the continuation of that...
I will tell you the difference. When Antony and Karunakaran were at the top in Kerala, I was also actively involved in Kerala politics.
At that time, every seat was taken up in the committee and there would be a discussion where both Antony and Karunakaran would express their views.
Finally, a list would go to the high command, and they would decide the names. That was how things functioned at that time.
Now, these two divides among themselves the seats, and they decide who would be on their list.
Nobody else has any say in that. That is the most unfortunate thing that is happening in Kerala.
I pointed this out to the high command, but they refused to interfere. They think this is a convenient way of functioning. But in the process, genuine workers and leaders are ignored.
People like (senior Congress leader V M) Sudheeran, myself are respected leaders by the people, but we do not belong to these two groups. We were kept in the dark while those two (Chennitala, Chandy) shared the booty.
When I found that I had no voice here and I was not able to correct what was happening, I had no other go but disassociate myself from the functioning of the party. That was the reason why I resigned from the party.
What was the response from Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi?
Nothing. They may be thinking that it is convenient if somebody goes.
They don't care about one person leaving the party. They don't care about the services you have rendered so far.
The Congress has come to a stage where the party cannot appreciate people with an independent opinion. That's why many people left the party.
Why did Jyotiraditya Scindia leave the party? It shows free-thinking people have no place in Congress.
I did not want to fight with anybody.
There was talk before that you were set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party but you joined the NCP.
I cannot be part of the BJP because of the ideology I believe in.
What I want to do is revive the Congress culture in some form or the other. The Congress is the party that the country needs. And the Congress cannot die.
Some people are Congress minded in all the parts of the country. I want to bring them all together in some form or the other and bring back the Congress culture.
There are people like Sharad Pawar, Mamata (Banerjee), Y S Jaganmohan Reddy... all of them formed breakaway parties.
I want to bring all these democratic groups together under one umbrella because the country needs something like that to fight the BJP.
So I decided to join the NCP as all of us have the same objective.
Some time back 23 Congress leaders wrote a letter that strongly stated the need to have elections from the panchayat level upwards but they were criticised for anti-party activities.
Yes. These are stated in the Congress constitution itself, that election should be held from the primary level to the working committee and also the election of the Congress president. It is binding on Sonia Gandhi.
How can they say asking for elections is an anti-party activity? Holding the elections is the obligation of any Congress president.
I knew the Group of 23 were collecting signatures, but I didn't join them because the signature campaign was seen as rebellion. But I agree 101% with the opinion they have expressed. I value and respect their opinion.
If elections are held in the Congress and new leaders emerge, will you go back?
We do not see such a situation emerging. Whether we are going back or forward, we are Congressmen. We will be Congressmen always.
What will happen to the Congress in Kerala? If the LDF comes back to power and creates history, will that be the end of the Congress?
No, it will not be the end of the Congress; it will be the end of Congress groupism.
There will not be any takers for the kind of groupism Chandy and Ramesh are playing.
The Congress will go to its lowest point, but it will come back.
The real Congress can never die, but the Congress you see right now in Kerala will die.
Today, there is no Congress in Kerala; there is only the Chandy group and the Ramesh group and both the groups will die after the elections.
Then, the real Congress will come up. The BJP will never be able to take over Kerala.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com