'The people who were assigned the role to look after the affairs of the Congress in Maharashtra have failed.'
Sanjay Nirupam -- who headed the Mumbai regional Congress committee till earlier this year -- is angry. Not just because he was not assigned any role for the assembly election in Maharashtra, but also because the manner in which he was removed from all decision-making bodies in the party.
Nirupam opted out of campaigning for the party in Mumbai and Maharashtra blaming the central leadership for creating a mess in the state.
"I am a true Congressman and I want to continue in the Congress party. It is a different thing that the party doesn't want me or doesn't have faith in my abilities," Nirupam tells Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
Were you expecting the Congress to come fourth in Maharashtra?
I announced on October 4 that the Congress will not do well (in this election).
I had said that the party will not win more than three seats in Mumbai and I think we are heading towards that.
We did not fight as a unit in Maharashtra and the result is for all of us to see. We have been relegated to the fourth position in the state.
What explains this poor show? Who's responsible for this?
The people who are at the helm of affairs...
Would you blame Sonia Gandhi's leadership for the Congress debacle in the state?
No, no, no, no!
The people who are at the helm of affairs in the state.
The people who were assigned the role to look after the affairs of the Congress in Maharashtra have failed.
Mr (Mallikarjun) Kharge (senior Congress leader in charge of Maharashtra), the MPCC (Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee), the MRCC (Mumbai Regional Congress Committee; Nirupam, a former MRCC president did not get along with his successor Milind Deora, who too was removed just before the assembly election)... they are the ones who decided the candidates.
The finalisation of the candidates (who contested) for the state election were done by these worthies.
They were in charge of the Maharashtra campaign and the result is for everybody to see.
But these people were appointed by the central leadership.
I don't want to talk to you anymore. You have some other agenda.
What agenda? Who appointed these MPCC and MRCC leaders?
Whoever appointed. When the party expresses its faith in the local leadership, then the local leadership has to deliver.
Like Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Deepender Singh Hooda (Congress leaders at the helm of affairs in Haryana, where the party has done well) are getting the praise that they deserve. Does it matter who appointed them?
These local leaders delivered for the Congress in Haryana, but those assigned the same responsibility in Maharashtra did not.
If these leaders have not delivered then these local leaders must be held accountable for Congress's poor show in the state.
Would you also say that the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party despite in alliance did not put up a united fight against the BJP-Shiv Sena combine?
There were not many roadshows or public meetings of senior Congress-NCP leaders.
That is a small technical issue and I don't think that was the reason for our poor performance in the state.
The important thing is if you are fighting an election you should be well prepared.
You must take everybody into confidence; you must take everybody's opinion on who your local candidate should be and then you should go ahead.
What you have done is take all the decisions unilaterally without taking into confidence people who have experience in these issues.
Are you happy that the BJP-Shiv Sena could not reach the 225 mark that they were hoping to get in Maharashtra?
The people (of Maharashtra) were rooting for a change in the state. They wanted a strong, united alternative to the BJP-Shiv Sena. We could not provide that alternative and have paid for that. We could not instil that faith in the voters that we could pull it off.
The BJP-Sena government is a disaster in Maharashtra. They could not perform properly or meet the aspirations of the Maharashtrian people.
But they have won a second term.
They have won because we were not prepared.
If we were not prepared to take on the ruling alliance, then it was our fault.
Is the Modi aura waning in Maharashtra? Both Modi and Amit Shah campaigned for Pankaja Munde in Parli in Beed district, but she is trailing behind her cousin Dhananjay Munde of the NCP.
Central leadership charisma doesn't work in state elections.
But the BJP rode the Modi wave and won the 2014 assembly election in the state.
In 2014 there was anti-incumbency against us (the then ruling Congress-NCP alliance) and we did not fight together.
But in this election, be it Narendra Modi or Amit Shah, any central leader of any party did not matter.
At the end of the day, what matters in the state are local issues.
At the end of the day the state government's performance was put to test here. And somehow we failed to expose how miserable this performance had been.
What's the lesson for the Congress from this poor showing in the state?
We have to learn from our mistakes. We have to have clarity on various issues; we have to carry out intra-party reforms.
We have to be a cohesive unit ideologically too. Somebody is praising (abrogation of) Article 370, somebody is opposing it; what is this nonsense? We have to present our case with one voice.
Going ahead, are you going to play any role in rebuilding the Congress in Maharashtra?
I would love to do it. I would expect my high command to have faith in me and assign me a good role.
I am a true Congressman and I want to continue in the Congress party. It is a different thing that the party doesn't want me or doesn't have faith in my abilities.