‘Modi saying that he will make India free of the Congress party is stupid and ridiculous’: KC Deo
Veteran Congress leader, Kishore Chandra Deo, does not pull punches when it comes to speaking on the failings of his party. In an exclusive interview, Deo, talks about how the Congress party has not been able to put its house in order
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi
After the big loss of 2014, the Congress Party has not shown any kind of urgency to put the house together or regroup and move on. What is your view on it?
You are absolutely correct, unfortunately so. Although three years have passed and no accountability has been fixed by the party on those who are in charge of different states or regions. Despite all the mess that was created, the same faces continue and the credibility of the party is still at a low. This has also been reflected in the local body elections where there was no BJP at all. Even while Narendra Modi's image is coming down on the side and the BJP won almost all the parliamentary seats in 2014 and got a comfortable margin in the Assembly elections, still they could not hold on to the local bodies. It is because normally when a party is in power in the state, the ruling party always has an advantage in local body elections as local bodies have more to gain from state governments. But despite all that, space was grabbed by the BJP only because Congress did not project itself as an alternative in a state where there was no BJP. Likewise in Andhra Pradesh, people today are disgusted with the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and at the same time, they are not enamoured by Jagan Mohan Reddy either. Unfortunately, we are doing nothing to project the party there.
What is the reason for this drift in the Congress?
I have been unable to understand the reason for this drift. Basically, there is no thrust from the Centre. Those who are in charge have developed vested interests and many of them even have personal favourites in many states. At this stage, you cannot be subjective which is something that the Congress party has been unable to do. Rahul Gandhi too said in Jaipur that many outsiders who get tickets drop in from helicopters from skies and then lose the election. He has been making these references off and on but the situation has not been brought under control as yet.
You are saying that mostly the so-called state leaders are responsible for the mess in the Congress, do you think the central leadership has become weaker than what it was earlier?
That's the unfortunate part. As far as the Congress party is concerned, it's still a national party and the central leadership is the strongest within the party. I don't blame the leaders of the state but I blame the people who appointed these people to be in charge of certain states. In Kerala, we have a strong organisation and because the central leadership hasn't imposed any leadership. That kind of a setup does not exist in any other state. So state after state, the Congress has surrendered its place to regional parties or factions from within the Congress that have left the party.
Congress appointed the Antony committee and the conclusion of the report are well known but they are a bit sketchy. What is in your reckoning the reason as to why the Congress fared so badly in 2014?
The Antony committee report came after the defeat in 2014. I think that the reason why we lost in 2014 was that there was a tirade against the Congress party with respect to the coal scam, CWG scam and the 2G scam. The kind of figures that were projected and the media blast that accompanied it—somehow people got an impression that public money had not been saved and they have suffered because the money that was supposed to have gone to welfare programmes has been eaten away by people in power. Today, two-and-a-half years have passed and no charge sheet has been filed. In an election, it is people's perception that matters.
Why wasn't there a more active introspection in the party after the loss?
The only session that the AICC had was in Jaipur when Rahul took over as the vice-president. A lot of groups met over there and it was a good discussion. But unfortunately, nothing happened after that. The fact is that every Congressman knows what went wrong. The remedies lie in the leadership that has to take decisions.
BJP's attempt to make a Congress-mukt Bharat and methodically sully the image of the party is still working, it's not that the Congress per se has been able to get out of it. So do you think any serious attempt has been made, except Rahul Gandhi going around and making speeches?
From my experience, I would like to say that in politics there is no murder. In politics, there is only either political suicide or hierarchy. From the time we attained Independence till now, whoever lost did so because of their own mistakes. So Modi saying that he will make India free of the Congress party is stupid and ridiculous. Today Congress is actually going in that direction not because of anything that Modi has done but because of its own faults. Tomorrow Narendra Modi will also go down because of his own mistakes. So, whether the country will become Congress-mukt or Modi-mukt will be known in under three years' time.
Would you attribute some of the inability of the party to go forward to the ideological confusion, because the Antony committee report was hinting at Congress becoming anti-Hindu and he wanted certain corrections to be done? Do you think this ideological fuzziness has taken hold of the party up to a point where they don't know how to take on BJP as a challenge?
I would not totally disagree with what you are saying as there was no necessity for the Congress to go in that direction. We have our own ideology. Why can we not go the way we think is right? Why do you have to think about the Hindu problem or Muslim problem? For instance, when Indira ji won the 1971 election, she did so on the theme of Gareebi Hatao. She didn't think of Hindus or Muslims; it was for the poor people. People vote politically, not as a caste or as a religious group.
Has there been any discussion within the party on the ideological line it should take and how do you go forward without hurting yourself and compromising on the basic objectives of the party?
These are efforts which are being made directly by the BJP. They want to polarise the voters. In the long run, it can have disastrous consequences. Our nation is not built on the basis of religion, caste or language. India became a republic as a political entity with a Constitution as the basis. The moment you start talking about uniformity you are sowing the seeds of dissension and dividing society. If a political party follows a policy that will divide the nation, what do you call it? I certainly won't use strong words like anti-national or unpatriotic. They too are patriotic people, may be nationalists in principle.
Initially, in Uttar Pradesh, the impression was made that the Congress party and its vice president were going to contest alone and would not need allies. They even named Sheila Dikshit as the CM candidate if they came to power and then we see the entire policy being abandoned. How do you explain that?
In a democracy numbers are important. Democracy is the art of the possible. So in situations like these, even I feel the first thing is to arrest the BJP from riding rough and breaking through all institutions and systems in our democratic polity. Probably, it was thought at that time that this kind of an alliance would be best to arrest the BJP from enlarging their reach. To that extent, there is now a triangular contest. So instead of the votes getting divided among four parties, it will now be divided between three parties and March 11 will tell us whether it was a right strategy or not.
Ideally, Congress should be strengthening itself at the Centre. What do you think should be the process by which they should do it?
There are certain states which were once ruled by the Congress and even now Congress is the only alternative party in these states—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. We have to do something to make sure that we are back in states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand as all these states were once under Congress rule.
Most of the state leaders also left the party in Assam for instance, they did not meet Congress VP.
That was unfortunate. I think the Congress could have taken certain steps to avoid it. The party first needs to set its own house in order.
Do you think demonetisation has changed the way politics is going to be conducted in the coming days?
In my view, Modi has met his waterloo with demonetisation. It is going to spell the beginning of his end. Demonetisation is not what the Congress prescribed or what the opposition parties wanted, it is Modi's own brainwave and I think this is what will see him out.
I have noticed that though the fortunes of the BJP might be falling but the ideology has become far more visible and widespread than it used to be and this is also because the Congress ideology has been on the retreat. How do you think you can change it?
There are two things to it: one the Congress has not been able to counter these charges effectively. Congress' secularism had been accepted all along for the last 50-60 years, then why should it come under strain now? Congress has to be more aggressive in countering this kind of propaganda.
What do you expect after March 11?
Whether it's a state election or Union election, people have always voted correctly amongst the alternatives offered to them and I don't think they will change that or fall back in any way.