It is almost a given that you will be the next president. What are your priorities?
I am contesting the election in response to the wishes of a very large number of our colleagues from different states who belong to different age groups. I am contesting with a deep sense of humility to discharge my obligations to a party that has given me everything. What I will do once I receive the requisite support will be demonstrated by my actions.
This exercise is to strengthen the party and unite to fight the common enemy, the BJP. My priorities are: to strengthen the party, unite the party ground-up, incorporate the opinion of each stakeholder and, most importantly, propagate the party ideology.
Many local leaders have demanded changing the Bharat Jodo Yatra route so that it can pass through their own constituencies. Is that possible?
The yatra is a herculean effort that no one else than Rahulji could have undertaken. It has been meticulously planned. Many senior leaders, MPs, MLAs, PCC delegates would want the yatra to pass through their constituencies, but it can’t always be possible. Many factors, including security clearances, need to be considered and last-minute changes are not possible. This yatra is about how different thoughts are assimilated (vicharon ko jodna) to have a comprehensive idea of India. We will plan many state-specific yatras.
Many Congress leaders have moved out, both nationally and locally. Will you welcome them back?
There is a process within the party, unlike other parties. Decisions are made on a particular forum and with a consensus. I believe in collective leadership where the opinions of local and regional leaders are given importance. I have followed an approach where each stakeholder’s voice counts. I’ll continue following this.
Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are going to be your testing ground. How do you plan to win in both states?
In Gujarat, we won 77 assembly seats out of 182 in 2017. In Himachal, we got 42% of the total votes cast. Anyone who deep-dives into the numbers and the actual situation can tell you the ‘Gujarat model’ was a sham. People are fed up with zero administration in Gujarat. Same is the case with all BJP-ruled states. The Congress is working hard to overthrow the BJP with an alternative which is focused on creating job opportunities and controlling the ever-increasing inflation.
You have quit your RS post and your loyalists say your victory is a foregone conclusion.
My decision was based on the Udaipur resolution: one man, one post. I find this very logical. My well-wishers might say that, but this is a free election. My job is to connect with all members and communicate my vision, take them along and strengthen the party. Our main fight is against the BJP-RSS. Let us not get diverted.
The last AICC president from Karnataka was S Nijalingappa in 1969. But that was a different era. Do you think Congress can revive and regain its glory?
Congress is an idea that has survived political attacks. No one can imagine our country without Congress. Since we are an ideologically-driven party, ideas never die. They may be suppressed for a brief period by forces but can’t sustain for long. QThe Bharat Jodo Yatra is a 150-day campaign touching various states. Lakhs of people have walked alongside Rahulji already. Look at the phenomenal response he is receiving.
The other aspirant, Shashi Tharoor, challenged you for a debate. What is your response?
Both of us are in one team i.e. Team Congress. We should debate the role of BJP and RSS. We should debate against rising unemployment. Both of us should debate the rising inflation. We should discuss the Centre’s policies which are changing our demographic dividend into a demographic disaster. Having a debate with each other (as Tharoor demanded) is neither going to strengthen our great nation nor the party.