Millennium Post

‘In a country like ours, you can build up a personality and project yourself as saviour’

How is the party addressing the latest scam, choppergate, during the ongoing parliament session?

The party has always had this point of view that if there is anything going wrong in procurement or transparency in procedure, then an enquiry must be conducted, so that the law can take its own course. Having said that, I feel that the way these issues are picked up and sensationalised, for example on television, without actually finding out what the facts of the matter are, it creates an unnecessary atmosphere of panic and a feeling of discontent amongst people. For example, in 2G, how it started with 1.76 lakh crores, and after that the figures were revised and courts got involved and even charges on the people, who were accused, were not proved. Even in the chopper case, the defence minister didn’t even waste a minute and ordered a CBI enquiry.

With so many scams – (choppergate, coalgate, 2G scam) hitting the government, how does the party plan to revamp its image?

Being a member of the working committee, I feel these issues, which come from time to time, about lack of transparency, corruption in high places, purchases (for the defence sector), coal allocation – these do really affect those who are in office, though they may have been initiated in the previous regime. But people tend to see you as most culpable and accountable because you are in the office.

The party has taken recourse to pamphlets and publicity explaining these things and we have had meetings, like Jaipur Chintan Shivir, AICC session and even during general body meetings at state level, to address these issues. Recently, the party has accelerated its use of social media to reach out to people.

While the party is trying to revamp its image, there has been a huge hype around Narendra Modi. What is Rahul Gandhi’s plan to counter this development?

I do think Rahul Gandhi is constantly meeting people, such as the office bearers of the party, state officials and members of parliament. He spoke the other day while sitting in the central hall, and one would say he was doing loud thinking raising various issues. Well, why shouldn’t he follow a course designed by himself? He is a young man identifying issues as they come up and is going on to address them. He did say, when asked the question about his aspirations to become the prime minister, that ‘Why should I work to fill up a particular post? I am going to do as it should be done and let’s see how it goes.’

When another journalist asked him whether someone else could then be the prime minister, Rahul rightly said, ‘Let someone else take credit if they want to.’ In a country like ours, you can build up a personality, like, of course Narendra Modi has won the Gujarat elections many times, and that gives him the self confidence to go forward and project himself as the saviour of the BJP and their icon.

But still these things (2002 riots) can’t be forgotten unless all those culpable are brought to book and people see that justice has been enforced.

You were the main person in charge of the recently concluded Chintan Shivir. How was the experience and what would you say was the outcome?

It was a very good experience and it was needed very badly. It helped us focus on issues and also spelt out our thinking on them as well. It helped Congress people sitting in different blocks and in far remote areas to come together.

During the Chintan Shivir, the two main issues which were picked up were safety of women and usage of social media. How have they been implemented after the meet?

The rape ordinance, brought by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, will be made into a law in the current session. There is a bill which is waiting the cabinet clearance. Apparently, they want some kind of unanimity across the political spectrum. The cabinet has been discussing it in the last two meets of theirs. I just heard that an EGoM has been appointed under P Chidambaram and by the weekend they should be able to take a call. After which an all party meeting is
supposed to be held.

As for social media, the Congress President Sonia Gandhi appointed a group to look into it headed by Digvijay Singh. I think he has handed over a report to the Congress president and vice president, but anyway a lot of young members in our party are very adept and some even have huge followings. The effect is to have them and others, who are on the same page as Congress thinking, to be active on Twitter, Facebook etc., so that one reaches out and the resulting effect should be a snowballing of ideas. I read that Manish Tewari has started a special Twitter account. During my time in the I&B ministry we had already gone on to YouTube, and Manish is taking this ahead now.

There are few recommendations like marital rape, and AFSPA which have been left out from J S Verma’s report. Will there be a possibility to include them finally?

Justice Verma’s report is about 600 pages long, in which he has tried to include all that everyone suggested, from all political parties to NGOs, groups and individuals who gave their point of views. Without diminishing its objective and without reducing its impact, you, nevertheless, have to bring about some kind of consensus in order to get it passed.

With these initiatives in mind, how is the party preparing for 2014 elections?

Sonia Gandhi has constituted a small group, which has Rahul, Digjijay Singh, Ahmed Patel, Janardhan Diwedi, Jairam Ramesh and Madhusudan Mistry to look at election. I am told they meet every Saturday and focus on planning for the election strategy for 2014.
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