NEW DELHI: Making a veiled attack on Rahul Gandhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said the Congress' decline is due to problems of its leadership and compared it to an "obsolete car" manufacturer who could survive in the past due to monopoly but not now.
"If you look state after state, the Congress party is losing a lot of its leaders. I see two particular reasons for it. A party, which has dominated India's politics for six decades and has been in power for almost 50 years or so, has suddenly started taking positions, which mainstream parties should not take. Their success is now measured by how much they can obstruct.
"Secondly the pitfalls of the leadership, which is not merit based is clearly being reflected.... And one of the principal grievances, a lot of its tall leaders have had, was the inability to communicate with the central decision makers or decision maker," Jaitley told PTI in an interaction.
Noting that there is still a large number of political parties, which depend upon the "crowd around a family", the Finance Minister said that the strength of these parties will depend on the capacity of that current generation to hold it together. "And I think the Congress is losing out on that," he said.
Listing the problems being faced by Congress in a number of states like Kerala, Assam, Arunchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Finance Minister said that the "shrinking" of Congress base was also happening in Punjab where elections are due next year.
"If you prepare a list of all the big business houses or 20 big business houses before 1991 and compare them with the top 20 in 2016, how many in the list are common.
"The pre-1991 belonged to the family owned companies, beneficiaries of the license regime, those who prevented competition and prevented others from entering. Even if you manufacture an obsolete car, you were near monopoly player because others were all swept.
"Post 1991, that changed. I think to a large extent, it is symbolic of what's happening to India. You take any profession. Just because your father was a great lawyer or you were doctor or you had family business does not matter," Jaitley said.
Noting that India's character is also changing to be more youthful, certainly post independence generation, he said that is why state after state, one will now find merit- based leadership.
"There is still a large number of political parties, which crowd around a family. Their strength will depend on the capacity of the current generation to hold it together. And I think the Congress is losing out on that," he said, adding that "in the few states left with the Congress, it does not seem to be doing very well".
Citing examples, he said, "Factionalism in Kerala has spoilt its image. In Tamil Nadu it is virtually being decimated. In West Bengal it has shrunk. In Assam there has been its major leaders leaving the party, joining the BJP. In states like Delhi, if you saw, they shrank to eight per cent popular vote. The ruling party of the last time shrank to an eight per cent popular vote.
"These trends continue. I can almost see the shrinkage happening in Punjab also. I think this is going to cost it heavily in Assam. It cost them in Arunachal Pradesh."
Calling the political crisis in Uttarakhand an internal problem of Congress, Jaitley said, "They lost a chunk of leaders because the leaders felt that their central leadership was not available even for a meeting or speaking to them."
Jaitley was apparently alluding to earlier remarks by rebel Congress leader from the state Harak Singh Rawat, who had ridiculed the Congress Vice President for meeting the "sedition accused" JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar while remaining "too busy" to speak to Congress leaders from Uttarkhand, who had raised a banner of revolt against Chief Minister Harish Rawat.
Jaitley also attacked Congress on its role over the JNU row, saying "modertate Left and Congress got trapped into something which was otherwise a movement by the ultra left" and asserted that a mainstream party like Congress cannot do the politics of fringe.