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Congress General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry: Is there any comparison between Modi and Rahul?

Last updated on: May 8, 2013 20:42 IST

'Is there any comparison between Modi and Rahul Gandhi?'


Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

'You need, in a national leader, some broad qualities like tolerance, like humanism. You need a neutral attitude to religion. No way can Modi match these qualities. His mind is communal,' Madhusudan Mistry, the Congress general secretary in charge of Karnataka, tells's Sheela Bhatt in an exclusive interview.

The man, who once worked as a mason in Ahmedabad earning Rs 2 daily, now shares the credit for the Congress's handsome victory in Karnataka.

Madhusudan Mistry, the Congress general secretary, was appointed in charge of the Karnataka election campaign by party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi after the latter saw the former working tenaciously on an assignment in a district in Uttar Pradesh three years ago.

Mistry's rise in the Congress is one of the fastest by the party's standards, but he has proved his mettle in Karnataka now.

Since Mistry joined the Congress a little more than a decade ago he was viewed by party veterans as an 'NGO-type jholawala' and always looked at with suspicion.

But Rahul Gandhi liked Mistry because he does not have any personal ambition or agenda. He is a man who can execute his leader's assignment without adding his own likes and dislikes to it.

That is what Mistry did in the Karnataka election. He worked hard for more than six months just to get four sets of candidates from different sources on who should be given tickets. Then the Congress core group, which was handling Karnataka, saw to it that the party did not mess up ticket distribution.

Rahul Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, Congress President Sonia Gandhi's political advisor, and Mistry could not avert it totally, but restricted the damage and dissatisfaction of state cadres to some 20 odd seats.

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Image: A Congress supporter poses with the party flag in Mysore after the election triumph in Karnataka on Wednesday. Inset: Madhusudan Mistry
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R


'Rahul played a major role in the Karnataka victory'

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Tickets were given after deliberations in the rest of the seats, after seeking the opinions of loyal workers and taking into account the candidates's winning quotient.

Mistry's theme was to not speak about the BJP, but speak about "gaining back the lost pride of Karnataka, lost under the BJP's rule."

Wearing a kurta-chudidar and Kolhapuri chappals, Mistry was enjoying his moment on Wednesday at his modest home on New Delhi's South Avenue.

He has fought hard to remove the 'outsider' tag and be accepted within the Congress. His favourite line is, "I came from Ahmedabad with one bag. If the party orders me I will return with one bag."

The man who enjoys paperwork, has a knack of filing field reports as managers of NGOs do, and has the common sense to understand what he is NOT supposed to do in a party like the Congress.

He spoke to's Sheela Bhatt in an exclusive interview as soon as the Congress crossed the majority mark in Karnataka.

At the end of the interview, Mistry insisted that his criticism of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be published as is.

Have you got messages from all over?

Yes. Ahmed Patel, political adviser (to Congress President Sonia Gandhi) called to share his joy. I told him he should get the real credit because his role was crucial in taking key decisions.

What was Rahul Gandhi's role?

He played a major role (in the Karnataka victory).

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Image: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi
Photographs: Press Brief

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'Congress fought the election by remaining united'

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What did he do?

He addressed nine huge meetings during the election campaign. He kept an eye on the selection of candidates. He was constantly concerned about planning and execution. He was available on a daily basis for consultation.

Let us take micro issue. Which are the two issues that worked well in your planning?

I think the people of Karnataka have put their trust in the leadership of the Congress. They thought that only the Congress will be able to provide able and stable leadership. They found Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi credible.

The second big thing that worked well for the Congress is that all the leaders of Karnataka fought the election by remaining united. That contributed in a big way to our success.

I give credit to the people of Karnataka for putting their trust in the Congress leadership in New Delhi and giving us the vote in the state.

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Image: Congress supporters celebrate in Bengaluru on Wednesday
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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'Congress didn't want to be branded as a Lingayat or Vokkaliga party'

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When you reached Karnataka last year, what was the ground situation like?

It was all in shambles. My time went into uniting our leaders, taking care of the district-level cadres and asking them about their problems. That was my main job. It took more than six months.

We could convince our people in Karnataka that the central leadership is serious and nobody has any personal agenda in anybody's favour.

We worked for the party. The Congress sent the message down that we want an inclusive party. We are not representing just one caste or a religion. We gave representation all castes and religion.

We didn't want to be branded as a Lingayat party or Vokkaliga party. We are for all.

I think the most important thing was that people put their trust in our leadership.

Which issues was this election fought on?

There was not even a semblance of a government in Karnataka. There was no feeling amongst the people that some government exists for them.

There were issues of water, price rise, but no one to care for them. People were suffering.

People thought, 'Enough is enough. This is too much.'

At the same time our leaders remained united and resonated the people's expectations.

How modern was your planning?

More than computerisation or anything else, I believe we established a rapport with grassroots workers. We understood their feelings. They felt that someone was talking to them and taking care.

I agree data is required, information is important, but that's not all that is needed.

We understood the ground reality and kept in touch with it.

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Image: B Siddarmaiah, a strong contender for the Karnataka chief minister's post, after his win
Photographs: Madhusudhan S R

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'Modi did try to communalise the election in Mangalore'

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What was the central election theme of your party?

Governance, able and stable leadership.

Corruption is part of mis-governance. If governance improves, inefficiency and corruption decreases.

We demonstrated that we have the capacity to deliver an able and stable government in the state.

It is largely believed that the BJP messed up governance and the Congress won by default.

It is not my job to say what they did or didn't. You see what we did.

I have seen the tendency of some people to not give credit where it is due. They will say, 'Oh you won, but by a slim majority. Oh, you won by three seats only.'

Why can't you compliment us without reservation? We won with a slender margin in Kerala. Our government is doing fine there. Why do you take away the sheen of our victory?

Why don't you say anything to (Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra) Modi? Ask him 'kem haryo? (Why have you lost?)' Why don't you ask him why he lost today?

Why he is not invited in Rajasthan?

Why did he not help the BJP win in Maharashtra in spite of campaigning?

Why he is not welcome in Bihar?

Why could he not do a thing in Uttar Pradesh?

He is not able to win any state for his party except Gujarat and you are out to make him prime minister.

Is there any comparison between him and Rahul Gandhi?

It was my good luck that I could travel with the Congress vice-president for two, three days during the election.

There is no match at all, whichever way you see. Intellectually speaking or otherwise, there is no match between them. You need, in a national leader, some broad qualities like tolerance, like humanism. You need a neutral attitude to religion. No way can Modi match these qualities. His mind is communal.

I, Madhusudan Mistry, am saying so! He has a communal mind and he did try to communalise the election in Mangalore by talking about cow meat etc.

The people of Karnataka are wise and they rejected his ideas. They said we don't want this man. I told people that you have seen just one face of the BJP in Karnataka (corruption), you haven't seen another face (communal).

In 2002, he was home minister. When the encounters happened after the 2002 riots, he was home minister.

There are 52 people in jail for fake encounters. Do you think they acted of their own? Do you think Modi was unaware of it?

Are we mad to believe that the fake encounters happened without the chief minister's knowledge? Only his PR is at work. Get victory and then speak!

Why could I win (in the Gujarat assembly election) in Sabarkantha (Mistry's home district) six out of seven assembly seats? Where was Modi? Why did his magic not work in my area?

If you have guts, then agree to a public debate.

Someone asked me why Modi is not coming to Karnataka, I said it is because of my presence. I will expose him in no time.

I know what all he has done and what all he is doing. He has created his entire image with the help of PR work.

But you can't change reality with PR work. One day you have to face the reality.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Mangalore

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'The 2014 election will be in favour of the Congress'

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There are serious charges against Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and the government's law officers are facing charges of lying inside the court.

Why did Law Minister Ashwani Kumar's unethical interference and Bansal's issue not affect the Karnataka election?

Let me tell you that the poor common man is worried about price rise. If there is drought, he is worried about water.

People want jobs. They have daily chores and worries of drinking water and a good transport system. These are the questions.

If you move away just 3 kilometres from 24, Akbar Road (the Congress party's national headquarters) there are different issues bothering people.

On the television channels what we see non-stop are issues not touching Karnataka. It is only 1,500 km away from Delhi.

People know what they want and the election results reflect it.

The Karnataka win is a reflection of people's psyche around that area.

I bet you that similar results will come in the 2014 election in favour of the Congress.

How do you see the Janata Dal-Secular's performance in Karnataka?

Believe me, I haven't bothered to know their plans. I used to ask Congressmen, 'Tell me, what are you going to do for the party.' We haven't bothered about other parties.

How can we win, that is the one question that bothered us. I don't want to comment on the BJP or the JD-S.

We have won because of our leadership and we are for inclusive growth.

Has Rahul Gandhi's new system helped in the election?

You have got only a slight insight into it. I won't speak much. It's a part of our strategy.

Image: Deputy Chief Minister K S Eshwarappa, in white kurta-pyjama, one of his party's electoral casualties
Photographs: Karnataka BJP Web site

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