NEW DELHI: Amid attacks from the group of 23 dissenting Congress leaders, former party chief Rahul Gandhi said that he was criticised by his own party leaders after he pushed for Youth Congress and NSUI elections.
Responding to a question about Congress' internal democracy, Gandhi, who was attending a webinar organised by US University Cornell through video conference, said he was the "first-person" to say that democratic election within the party is absolutely critical.
"I am the person who pushed elections in youth organisation and student organisation and got a serious beating in the press for that. I was literally crucified for doing elections. I was attacked by my own party people. I am the first person that says democratic election within the party is absolutely critical but it is interesting to me that this question is not asked about any other political party," he said.
"I am the first person that says democratic election within the party is absolutely critical but it is interesting to me that this question is not asked about any other political party. Nobody asked why is there no internal democracy in BJP, BSP, and Samajwadi Party," he added.
The Wayanad MP said Congress' ideology is the ideology of the Constitution so it more important for the party to be democratic.
"But they ask about Congress because there is a reason. We are an ideological party and our ideology is the ideology of the Constitution, so it is more important for us to be democratic," he said.
Rahul Gandhi's remarks come in the backdrop of a recent rally in Jammu of Congress leaders, including the G-23 or the 23 senior dissenting leaders, who had last year questioned the party's functioning in a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi and demanded reforms in the organisation. They also demanded internal elections in Congress.
Dissenting leaders including Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma have stated that the Congress party is "getting weaker" and they are raising their voice for the betterment of the party.
He also said that the party has to change and be humble to fight the arrogance of the BJP, while adding that after 2014 the opposition is fighting the battle for India and not for getting power.
In a conversation with India's former chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu, now a professor in the Cornell University in the US, Gandhi said the Congress party has to open itself to the people and submit itself to them, bringing together the resistance against the Modi government.
Asked what is his vision for the Congress in the face of recent electoral defeats, the former Congress chief said, "Gather the resistance. Bring together the resistance. There is the resistance across all fronts, many different types of people, many different types of ideas and the Congress party has to have the humility, flexibility and respect to absorb them."
"It has to change itself, it has to transform itself to playing that role. Remember when we started the Congress party, it was basically bringing together the resistance, we used to call it passive resistance in those days because we are not into the violent kind of resistance, we still are not, so we will never do anything violently, anything aggressively, anything nastily, all polite, all nice, but we will bring together India's power," he asserted.
Gandhi said the Congress has to open itself to the Indian people and submit itself to them going forward.
"It has to be humble, because it is fighting arrogance. So that is what the Congress party has to do. It is not an easy transformation, it is a difficult transformation," he noted.
Gandhi said a lot of people are not happy with what is going on in the country currently and the Congress has to carry all these forces together.
"I actually believe that not just the Congress party, the opposition after 2014 is no longer fighting for power, we are fighting now for India. For me we are now fighting a battle for India," he said.
"Before 2014, we were fighting elections to win elections, we were fighting for power, now that game has changed, because the rules now have completely changed. We don't have the institutions to protect us," he alleged.
Gandhi said India essentially was about a "negotiation" in which India decided that it is going to have a free and fair fight for power and that is what happened till 2014.
"You mentioned that there was the brief period of Emergency where the Congress party was wrong, I am the first to say it. But that changed in 2014 (with the Modi government coming to power). That is not happening anymore. There is no free fight for power in India anymore which means now we have to fight for India," he said.
(With PTI Inputs)