Senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily, who during the decade-long Congress-led UPA regime held significant portfolios of Law, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Power, and Corporate Affairs, is a seasoned politician and party strategist. The former Karnataka chief minister, a close advisor to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, told Ejaz Kaiser that the Congress had launched multiple exercises to remove the BJP from power in 2019.
In a grand coalition, will the Congress be ready to accept any leader other than Rahul for the PM’s post?
No one is thinking on those lines. All major opposition parties are in action together to throw the BJP-led NDA government out. We are not naming anybody (for PM post) but at the same time the Congress is forging a strong alliance. Senior opposition leaders like Deve Gowda, Chandrababu Naidu and others believe that the pivotal role for Maha-gathbandhan should be played by the Congress party.
Will the mahagathbandhan alliance sustain?
At the national level it will be successful with like-minded opposition parties coming together. NDA is losing friends and we are gaining friends. We are working together and most of the parties are eager to remove the ruling regime. There will be strong, consolidated opposition parties in the alliance.
What strategy has the Congress devised to keep the BJP out of power?
We are preparing to give shape to our plans for 2019—the manifesto and the vision. The papers are getting ready. Brain-storming meetings are being carried out at the block level everywhere. We are facilitating the opposition to come around us and it is happening with everybody on board.
How real is the perception of a leadership crisis in the Congress?
In Chhattisgarh there was a temporary vacuum when our top leadership was eliminated in the Maoist attack after the present BJP government didn’t provide the requisite security. However at the national level Congress party has very competent and strong leadership. Rahul has evolved as very mature, sincere, aggressive, competent leader who is capable of taking responsibility.
In Chhattisgarh a pro-change mood is not perceived as a pro-Congress one. Ultimately the pro-change mood was the reflection of a huge wave in favour of the Congress since we fought against the BJP. It was a resounding landslide victory. Other parties in the state were marginalised.
Your take on demonetisation.
Note-ban was done with avowed objective to track down black money. But did the unaccounted back money came out? Instead the approach enabled people to covert the black money into white. Around 99.5 percent of the banned currencies returned to RBI, 110 people died in queues and the common people suffered for several months. Did it curb the activities of Naxals or terrorists? Demonitisation was a total failure.
But PM Modi says only one family finds problem in demonetisation..
Then did that one family recover money? 40 percent of the unorganised sector is without jobs even after two years of ddemonetisation. Are they not suffering?
How about the GST, which was originally a Congress plan?
We drafted the GST and I as a law minister accomplished it. The GST should be transparent, simplified. But 36 forms now are to be filled. There cannot be multiple rates. All these shows the present government nurtures trust-deficit with the traders and the people. Taxation should be precise, strictly read as it is and not open to interpretation. But that is not happening. Ahead of Gujarat elections the centre changed the rates all of a sudden, which makes the taxation itself uncertain and leads to panic. Today 11 banks don’t give even retail loans which has never happened earlier. The NPA has gone from Rs 2 lakh crore to 14 lakh crore during the past four-and-a-half years.
BJP says Rahul suffers from Modi phobia.
It’s the other way round. PM Modi is making personal attacks on Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and ignoring real issues. It suggests the desperation on the part of the PM and the BJP president Amit Shah. Earlier Modi used to say that he will only talk on development but now..
Modi says no Congressman assumed charge as party president for 5 years and hence the argument that Pandit Nehru had set healthy democratic traditions is unconvincing…
It seems Modi has selective memory. Right from day one Rajendra Prasad was our president, D K Barua, PV Narasimha Rao, Sitaram Kesri and few others were Congress party chief. When it comes to PM, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh were prime ministers. Even in Nehru’s time number of people have succeeded as AICC president and later as the PM.
Does the recent fuel price cut reflect the government’s concern for the people?
Absolutely not. The benefit of the low crude oil price never was transferred to the people by the Centre. Just compare the crude oil prices in May 16, 2014 when it was $ 107.6 and on September 6, 2018 when it came down to 73, over $ 34 less. The BJP-ruled NDA misappropriated everything for themselves. The price of domestic cooking gas has risen from H400 to over H1000 now. And the NDA had not re-invested in the petroleum sector. During UPA government over 36000 km of gas pipelines were laid, the NDA has not added an inch.
Why then did Congress-led UPA lose so miserably?
Some allegations on corruption were levelled through campaigns ahead of 2014 and gone to the courts but later proved to be false. Congress became victim of anti-propaganda. We didn’t get the expected votes. But the comparison of the governance by both the UPA and the NDA is for all to see now.
Congress hopes relied on the farmers and Rahul attempted to woo them.
When Narendra Modi and the BJP misled farmers after 2014 elections through false promises to waive-off agricultural loans. The Congress now takes the onus to fulfill what the BJP failed to accomplish. People nurtured lot of expectations from NDA government but all hopes collapsed.