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Chintan Shivir, a politically flop show as Congress fails to resolve leadership issue!

The Congress held the ‘Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir’ amid much pomp & show. But there are aspersions about Chintan Shivir being a failure politically. Was it so?

Jagdeesh Chandra: Yes, it has been a failure as the Congress leadership failed to sort out the leadership issue. Rahul Gandhi continues to be an ‘extra-constitutional’ power centre taking all decisions without any responsibility and from behind the curtains. This camp can be called a ‘superhit show’ only administratively that too courtesy Ashok Gehlot who ensured excellent arrangements. However, politically no major decision was taken. Everyone was expecting the announcement of Rahul Gandhi as the party president or perhaps someone else if not him, but that did not take place. So, politically it was a flop show.

Why couldn’t Congress stop Hardik Patel from leaving the party?

This is another tragedy that happened within 48 hours of Chintan Shivir. This clearly shows that the party is confused, it does not take matters seriously and issues keep getting stalled and then people leave it. Hardik leaving the Congress is a major blow to the party, then may accept it or not but that’s a fact. Especially when they say they will promote youth. A renowned youth leader left you and has said in his letter that there is a lack of seriousness at all levels. It was known that he could leave the party as he was supporting the Ram Mandir move and the Abrogation of Article 370. But why didn’t anyone take cognizance of it and speak to him about the issues? So no one is ready to take direct responsibility. So the next question is as to whose responsibility is it? Now Congress leaders are spinning that he left since Naresh Patel is being brought in the party. Then they claim he used to stay busy in business activities and also the state government had tightened the screws around the cases against him. Well, this is bound to happen. It is politics and part of life. The bottom line is that you could not stop him from leaving. In fact, he has laid accusations which have been laid on Rahul Gandhi in the past too, like when they go to meet Rahul he keeps busy on mobile and doesn’t take things seriously. I remember Himanta Biswa Sarma had claimed long back that when he was in Congress he had gone to meet Rahul who was busy playing with his dog Pidi and did not meet Sarma and there was no other chair. This is unfortunate, such things should never happen. Similarly, a Punjab leader went to meet him and Rahul was busy in Yoga. Such things spread from word of mouth and they seriously damage Rahul Gandhi’s credibility. So in a nutshell, Hardik Patel’s leaving has washed away any success of Chintan Shivir. Mark my words, another youth leader is on a cusp of leaving the party and he is Sachin Pilot. You need to settle him and if you do not do that, then next headline would be his. It is nothing to feel bad about since this is the reality. When he rebelled, the high command should have had the courage and conviction to let him go, but they did exactly the opposite of it. This resulted in Gehlot being heartbroken and Sachin is seated without any power. Now there are so many undecided aspects, Pilot supporters are waiting for something to happen but now elections are round the corner, so they must take a concrete decision. And most of all when the Chintan Shivir happened why didn’t the high command declare that Ashok Gehlot will remain the Chief Minister for the remaining term and election would be fought under his leadership. This was the most appropriate platform and yet you left hope for Pilot supporters and it is only human to think that their leader would take the mantle. Therefore, it pains me to say that the camp has been a failure

How different was Udaipur’s Chintan Shivir than the ones held in the past?

See Congress has held such contemplation camps in 1974 during Indira Gandhi’s time, then it happened in Pachmarhi, Shimla and then in Jaipur. The difference among these is that in the three Chintan Shivir held in Rajasthan, Sonia Gandhi was at helm with Gehlot in state, which is a proven team of the party. This time around the program was organised beautifully and its conduction was also done in a good manner. But devoid of any leader it did not have as much colour as was needed, but it was better managed than the previous ones.

This Chintan Shivir was organised on the ‘Now or Never’ mood of the Congress. But what was its agenda and has it completed agenda?

India Today has given an exact situation of Congress ‘Now or Never’. This means that Congress knows it is sinking, but before it drowns, let us make one last effort. There is no doubt that a serious effort was put in to reorganise the party. As far as putting things on paper that such and such thing has happened, Udaipur was a hit show. But the issue is of leadership. If Rahul is still a reluctant bride, then put aside everything and make Sonia Gandhi the Party president. She is most acceptable person among Congress leaders. This time around she was as always in command despite her illness and yet she had the power to say that the party will come back. On the contrary, if you see Rahul’s address, it was a strong speech, but there was no connectivity. So it was good that they took decisions, but unless and until there is someone to execute them, they are just words on paper.

What do you think, has Rahul Gandhi agreed to take the party presidency, or is he still not keen?

No, it is my assessment over the past 3-4 years that he is a brilliant person, secondly, he is dedicated to the party thirdly, he is aggressive in his political approach and takes direct confrontation with Narendra Modi even if he has to run from one court to another, everything is there. But as far as leadership is concerned, he is no systematic and although everyone is saying that he will become president after September, but I doubt it.

But do you think he will be made president in AugustSeptember?

There is only one way left that Sonia Gandhi uses her veto and gets Rahul declared as president on gun point. In the last Chintan Shivir at Jaipur, Sonia had cried in Rahul’s room that power is poison and asked him to stay away from it. But now situation is changed.

Acharya Pramod had suggested that if Rahul Gandhi is not keen on becoming President, Priyanka should be given the responsibility. Do you agree with his proposal?

Absolutely there is no other option or solution because Congress ka jeena marna Gandhis ke saath hai. That much is certain. If he is not ready to become President then there are two options. One being Sonia Gandhi but it is not possible for her due to her health issues, so Priyanka is the only choice but as of today she also appears helpless. After the humiliating defeat of the party in UP, she is only the principal PRO of the party where the disgruntled lot reaches and is pacified by Priyanka.

How do you see the entire Priyanka matter in light of Chintan Shivir? Do you think she is being mishandled?

Of course! Priyanka factor is being mishandled for the past 15 years. Party could not decide and mother’s heart is all for the son Rahul. Several times the need to play ‘Priyanka Card’ was raised and at times it was said that she would campaign on 152 odd seats, then she got constricted to 50 odd seats and then Rahul Gandhi said she is my sister she will go where she wants. Ultimately it so happened that she was restricted to just 2 seats — Amethi and Raibareli. So your weapons has lost its edge and as a result when she went to carry out a rally at India Gate, she had merely 100 people. That is a virtual political death of Priyanka in public life, and who is responsible for it, none other than Gandhis. They should have taken the appropriate decision at the appropriate time. They instead stayed in the mirage of Rahul and he has not said yes to the role till now. So, Priyanka factor has been mishandled, and sorry to say she is not a factor today. And suppose if Priyanka is made the chief it will take her years to become a stronghold of Congress, politically speaking and this, Rahul Gandhi knows and hence he says that the fight is for the years and so he asks to fight with him. But the problem really is that today he may ask to fight with him shoulder to shoulder, but then the next day onwards no one would know where he is or what is mood is like. In front of Narendra Modi & Amit Shah, she is no factor at all.

You mentioned Amethi just now. Those close to Rahul Gandhi claim that he will rise to power in Amethi once again...

It is a good dream project. The world lives on hope. Perhaps he may get inspiration there and now when he walks on those streets and someone comes up to him for help, he will not ask them to email the problems. Till the time even the basic functioning of Rahul Gandhi’s office is changed, Amethi will remain a dream. There is no fight for 2024, and I have already said the fight is for the 2029 elections. It is almost impossible to take back Amethi from Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Smriti Irani. Almost.

It is said that even in Gandhi family there are ideological differences between Rahul and Priyanka which have surfaced recently. What are these issues over which siblings, who have been so close, are not on one path?

See it is human nature. When Priyanka sees how the party is performing poorly and the brother is unable to ‘take off ’ and is not even accepting or hearing what she has to say, so there are differences and it is obvious to have differences. Like on the issue of Prashant Kishor, there was a serious difference between the two. Priyanka wanted that PK should come in the party fold and perhaps both Rahul and Sonia did not want him in the party, so there is a difference. She left for US, perhaps for some work, but the message that went to the masses was that she was angry so she left for America. And secondly, Rahul Gandhi announced the one family one ticket rule so where will Priyanka go? So they will have to take out a way, like the five-year rule etc. So there are serious differences and at the end of the day how the party is falling down, how long will she continue to see all this but now she is a mere audience. Differences are there but they meet and share food together and support each other too.

But do you think that perhaps 10 years down the line they both may go their separate way?

See nothing is ruled out. Although I do not imagine Priyanka Congress versus Rahul Congress. This will not happen till the time Sonia Gandhi is there. But what will be situation after her, will Congress even be in existence. Perhaps Modi and Shah’s dream of Congress-Mukt Bharat would be realised then. So if differences are there and what shape they take in future, it can’t be ascertained fully as of now. TO BE CONTINUED...

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