By Asim Kamal
AWANTIPORA: The Congress must be the “fulcrum” of any Opposition alliance to take on the BJP in the 2024 general elections as no coalition can be “meaningful” or “relevant” without it, senior leader Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday.
The Congress general secretary also said that in his view, the Congress should be preparing to fight on its own in every state in the 2029 general elections.
In an interview with PTI, Ramesh said he would certainly put his weight behind doing another yatra from Gujarat’s Porbandar to Arunachal Pradesh’s Parshuram Kund this year but the party has to take a call on it eventually.
“I certainly have been giving a thought to it. Now, whether the party will or not (undertake such a yatra), I cannot say. But ideally, when the Bharat Jodo Yatra was thought of in Udaipur, there was also a thought of moving from west to east,” said Ramesh, who along with Digvijaya Singh, is considered to be the brain behind the Kanyakumari to Kashmir ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, which will culminate on January 30 in Srinagar.
Asked if the Congress would be the fulcrum of an Opposition coalition, especially after the massive cross-country march it has undertaken, Ramesh said, “I certainly believe so. It stands to reason as we are the only national political party even today (besides the BJP).” “We may not be in power in state after state but if you look at the presence in every village, mohalla, block, town or city, you would find Congress workers, Congress families,” he said.
The BJP may be in power but in terms of sheer presence, the Congress is the only national political force, Ramesh claimed.
“Just measuring our influence by the number of states we govern or the percentage of votes that we get is a very narrow perspective. The ideology of the Congress is of the Centre. It is a Centre-Left party. Every party veers around to the Congress point of view, to the middle path, the path of consensus and conciliation,” he said.
“So yes, we are the fulcrum. If we are going to take on the BJP, it is only a coalition around the Congress (that can do so),” he added.
Addressing a press conference at the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) office in Srinagar, Ramesh said after the Yatra, opposition parties will begin the process of talks and political negotiations, but the cross-country march had nothing to do with it.
“Any opposition platform to defeat the BJP must be based on two realities – Congress must be the pivot or the fulcrum of any Opposition alliance, without the Congress, no opposition alliance is relevant or meaningful,” he said.
“Any Opposition alliance must be based on a constructive agenda, not just a negative agenda of anti-BJP-ism or anti-government-ism. This is not the business of the Bharat Jodo Yatra which has nothing to do with elections,” Ramesh said.
Any attempt to build a meaningful, winning coalition against the BJP must be pivoted around the Congress, he asserted.
Asked about some Opposition leaders conveying inability to attend the January 30 event, he said it was not a setback.
In the interview with PTI, Ramesh said he would ideally want the Congress to take on the BJP alone but that may not be realistic in 2024.
“My view is that, for 2029, we should be preparing to fight on our own in every state. But I am realistic that this position may not find favours within my own political party,” he said.
He, however, added that in some states, the Congress has given too much space to its allies which is detrimental to organisation building.
Rahul Gandhi’s key message has always been to build the organisation first and power will follow, but the Congress has reversed that sequence, he said, adding that the former party chief’s view is the right one.
“Long years of being in power has been detrimental to the organisational vitality. With the Bharat Jodo Yatra, this (organisational vitality) has gotten a booster and momentum but that has to be sustained,” Ramesh said.
“We cannot go back to having conflicts within the organisation between leaders, clashes among different groups. One would expect that after the Bharat Jodo Yatra, we have found a higher purpose,” he stressed.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is a great cause involving a large number of Congress workers and the largeness of the cause must reflect in our behaviour and approach when it comes to a halt, otherwise this will just be one episode, Ramesh said.
“I have been saying this is not an event, it is a movement. So, if we want it to be seen as a movement, we must treat it as a movement,” he added.
Asked about personal ambitions affecting the party’s prospects in various states and how the Congress would solve Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot feud, Ramesh said, “These personal ambition and personal goals have been a bane of the Congress. What the Bharat Jodo Yatra has done is that it has brought a sense of collective purpose and solidarity, and that is what is needed in state after state, including in Rajasthan.” The organisation has to triumph, not individual egos and ambitions, as what is good for the organisation will be good for party individuals but what may be good for an individual may not necessarily be good for the party, Ramesh said.
Referring to the Congress organisation as a “sleeping giant”, Ramesh said the yatra has certainly giving new hope to it but this is not sufficient as this has just opened an opportunity and now it depends on the organisation on different levels to take forward the momentum that has been generated.
“It (yatra) has been a great booster dose for the organisation and people are talking of the Congress in a different light than they were five months ago,” he said.
Talking about Gandhi’s image transformation, Ramesh said this was not the cause of the yatra but it was a consequence of the yatra.
Gandhi’s image transformation among the people has been a great bonus, Ramesh said.
“I think the BJP maligning Rahul Gandhi is not going to stop because their only game is maligning and defamation. But the credibility of what they are doing is far less than what it used to be. There will be few takes of the ‘Pappufication’ as you call it,” he asserted.
Ramesh added that there has also been a transformation in terms of the narrative of the Congress.
Source: Press Trust of India