‘No other party except Congress and BJP exists on national level’
There has been a lot of rearrangement happening among various political parties. There might be a possibility of a federal front. How are you going to deal with this issue?
We are of course looking at it. These experiments have not succeeded really. Any political party, which does not have the numbers, in terms of its members of parliament, cannot lead this country. As I say, the tail cannot wag the body, it is only the body which can wag the tail. At the national level there are two political parties – the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which have the potential to emerge as the single largest party. No other political party except these two has the possibility of getting more than 20-30 seats.
What are your views on the future of alliance with political leaders such as West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) head Mamata Banerjee?
As far as Mamata is concerned, we fought the last election together – 2009 and Parliament assembly election, and we did fairly well. We would now be seeing the performance of TMC when it fights alone. I hope better success prevails with Mamata and she realises that we have to fight together.
Is the Congress keeping its option open with her for a future alliance?
As far as we are concerned, the Congress President has appointed a committee headed by Rahul Gandhi to look at the issues of organising campaign for 2014 election. And there’s a committee headed by AK Antony that would be looking at the issue of alliances in 2014 elections.
What are your party’s views on Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar?
As far as Nitish is concerned, we have got great respect and regard for him. He has come from a secular background. The only issue is that he was the minister for railways when the Godhra incident took place. Also, at the same time he tied up with the BJP in the state and parliamentary elections. On that score, his track record has not been so good. But he is basically a secular man and the tough stand he has taken against Narendra Modi proves his secular credentials. But in Bihar we already have Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan who have been much more dependable allies. In the past, Lalu supported us even before we came to power in 2004. Therefore, the Congress party committee headed by Antony will have to take a call on that.
How does Congress see an alliance with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) head Mayawati?
When it comes to Mayawati, she has a track record in forming the government with the BJP. The political ideologies are not very important as far as she is concerned.
But Mayawati is giving outside support to United Progressive Alliance?
Yes, she is giving outside support for the UPA government, and we are grateful for that.
When it comes to the issue of Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, how does your party plan a future alliance with him?
Mulayam Singh Yadav has come from the old socialist background, and he has taken many secular stands for which we are grateful. But we should not forget that he became the chief minister of UP because of the support of BJP.
How do you view a future alliance with these political leaders?
It is a question of how we land up post 2014 and what the scenario is. Therefore it is about political decisions.
Currently, the buzz is that the Congress might want to go for early elections. How far do you think is it true?
I don’t think it’s correct. We would rather have the elections at the stipulated time because there is no reason to pre-pone the election which will be held next year.
What do you have to say about the four state elections? Would there also be a change in that?
We would be going aggressively to get a clear-cut mandate to govern the country and to complete our agenda of a very strong, secular, socialist nation which empowers the people of this country. So, these are the issues on which we will be working because this country has not had a clear mandate since 1985. If you see today, some of our very important legislations could not be enacted due to the Parliament not being allowed to function, whether it’s right to food security, Lokpal, land acquisition and other number of important legislations. Therefore, we would be now appealing strongly to the people of India to give us a clear mandate to fulfill our national agenda and bring about greater changes in the governance of this country.
When we talk about Narendra Modi, the BJP has recently appointed him as the head of their poll panel for the coming elections. He appears to be more or less the face of BJP for the elections now. To what extent does this affect the Congress in any way?
As far as we are concerned, Narendra Modi is the chief minister of Gujarat and that’s it, like Shiv Raj Singh Chauhan is the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh is the chief minister of Chhattisgarh. Now that he has come at the national level as the chairman of the campaign committee, it really does not make a difference to Congress’ prospects. Earlier in 2004 and 2009 parliamentary elections, the BJP had appointed its own chairman of campaign committees. But surprisingly, the media has given a tremendous hype this time. As far as we are concerned, Modi is not an issue.
Recently, the resignation of Advani and his withdrawal from party positions created quite a stir. Will it in any way help the Congress, and if yes, how?
As far as we are concerned, it doesn’t make a difference to us. He said something that is very critical of the kind of situation prevailing in the BJP where self-seeking people were dominating. And suddenly within 36 hours he withdrew his statement. It hits the credibility of Advani to a great extent.
So, there is no way the Congress is going to benefit out of this?
Whether it will benefit us or not, we will come to know. But we are neither intrigued nor elated over this happening, because these things do happen in political parties. We will fight the BJP on the basis of its ideology, and not on its internal party politics.
So, what is your take on the intra-party crisis that is plaguing the BJP?
They don’t seem to have clarity as far their own leaders are concerned. It is up to them to decide. We would rather put our own house in order.
What are the major electoral issues that the Congress is going to focus on at present before the Lok Sabha elections?
Firstly, we have taken some positive steps in the last decade. Secondly, we will soon be putting up in our election manifestos what plans we have post 2014 elections. Lastly, we have a very viable, young, clean face in Rahul Gandhi, whom we would be projecting in the next elections as one of our top leaders.
The UPA has been facing a slew of corruption charges. Recently, former minister DS Rao and Naveen Jindal have been implicated in the Coalgate scam. What is your comment on that?
Any person who was involved in any kind of corruption, be it a politician, or a bureaucrat, or a senior officer of a corporate sector, we have not let them go. We have taken strong and firm actions against all those who have had a case of corruption against them. We have been very tough as far as cracking down corruption is concerned.
With regard to your point about Rahul Gandhi, does it mean that the Congress will not project Gandhi as the PM candidate? If not him, who would it be? Would it be Manmohan Singh once again?
We don’t want to project anyone for the post of the prime minister. Only last time, we declared Manmohan Singh as the PM, but usually Congress does not project anyone in advance.
How would you rate the chances of the UPA coming back to power in the Lok Sabha elections as well as the four state elections?
In the assembly polls, we have a strong chance in repeating victory in Rajasthan and Delhi and in bringing Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to the Congress fold. We are equally confident about the 2014 Lok Sabha elections too. I think we will prove all the prophets of doom wrong.
You have always been known for your bold and candid statements. What are your views about giving more autonomy to the CBI?
CBI has its autonomy. If you noticed it has raided a sitting Member of Parliament of the Congress party. It is taking action against an ex-minister of the party who was in charge of the coal ministry and also against Suresh Kalmadi. It has acted independently in all cases of corruption in this country.
But then, what about the allegations, from BJP especially, that the CBI is being arm-twisted?
These allegations are being made to suit their own convenience. The same BJP was elated when the CBI came up with charges against the former Union Railway Minister Pawan Bansal. Obviously, the opposition makes shifty statements looking at the situations of the day, which are volatile, rather than maintaining consistency.