Former Delhi chief minister and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit talks to Pradip R Sagar about Rahul Gandhi’s likely elevation as Congress president, the party’s downfall, the Presidential polls, and its take on GST. Excerpts:
Has the time has come to give the command of the 100-year-old Congress party to Rahul Gandhi?
I still feel Rahul needs time to emerge as a strong leader. Let the time come. But simultaneously, I also feel that once he is given responsibility of the party president, he’ll certain come out strongly. Besides Rahul, I don’t see any other personality who can take over the Congress. Once Rahul becomes a leader, he’ll behave with more maturity. Learning never stops. The idea is to make him party president. But things change in politics, depending upon on the perception of the party high command and decisions they take.
A tussle between the Old Guard and the New Guard is delaying the crowing of Rahul Gandhi.
It’s the way how you look at things. When Rajiv Gandhi took over the party, he came with his own team. Sonia Gandhi also picked up her own people. It is only a matter of persons with whom you are comfortable and compatible with. So if Rahul takes over, he has the right to chose his team, which may not be liked by some people. Rahuls is building up his own team. Party workers have a a lot of respect and affection for the Gandhi family. We have to correct ourselves. Adopt changes as per the high command.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress was at its worst poll performance since Independence.
There’s no point in taking about it. We need to learn from it. Whatever step we take, they should energise the party and workers, not just leaders, who are demoralised after repeated losses. The UP campaign started shaping up very well with ‘Khat Yatra’ and ‘27 Saal, UP Behal’ campaign. The alliance with the SP turned out to be one of the main factors for our worst poll performace. The alliance didn’t work for our benefit. Because of the seat sharing formula, we lost a lot of seats even though we had many candidates who were confident of winning. Ground workers did not participate as they should have. The party leadership should now collectively decide to find reasons and efforts to bring it back on track. Guidance is not coming forth from the leadership. For instance, no one reacted when Amit Shah called Mahatma Gandhi ‘Chatur Bania’.
Do you see the Presidential poll as Dalit Vs Dalit?
One should not confine Meira Kumar to just a Dalit. She is highly educated. She been the Lok Sabha Speaker and a minister. You can’t doubt her credentials. She’s been in foreign service. Mathmatically, her winning does not look encouraging, but the entire non-BJP parties are together and I’m hoping to see her as the President.
Does the Congress have a strategy to take on the government on GST?
BJP never allowed Congress to bring in GST, and now they’re doing the same thing. BJP is a political party, which keeps changing its stance. But the bigger question is whether the government is prepared for GST or will it be the same story as what happened during demonetisation. I’m sure our (Congress) leadership will take it up in Parliament and in the streets.
How do you see Delhi three years after leaving it as its chief minister?
(Arvind) Kejriwal’s government has not added anything to Delhi, it’s still as I left it. Delhi needs growth all the time, and I don’t see it happening. Delhi’s instrastructure is not encouraging. Kejriwal misguided people to get votes in the name of corruption, but no corruption changes have been proved so far.
Why Congress’ dismal show in Delhi’s civic polls?
Internal politics happens in every party. We should have done better in the MCD polls. I never thought that the ppolls would go to the BJP for the third time. Leaders like Arvinder Singh Lovely left the Congress. Arvinder is an opportunist. The Congress gave him so much, made him a minister at a young age. I have no respect for him at all. He has not gained anything.