For an influential section in the Congress, according to party general secretary Shakeel Ahmad, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar still remains the preferred choice as an alliance partner.
In an interview to HT, Ahmad, who is the party affairs in-charge for Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, says the ‘Modi wave’ is seen only in the media and nonHindi speaking rural areas of the country, while the common people even don’t know the BJP’s PM candidate.
*HT: Congress leaders privately admit that the 2014 Lok Sabha elections would be tough for their party. What is your assessment?
Ahmad: In all national elections since 1996, no single party, including the Congress, has been able to get the required number of seats to form the government at the Centre on its own. So, the
coming elections can be tough for all parties and the Congress is no exception.
A certain amount of anti-incumbency against the Congress after 10 years in power is natural. But this is also a fact that UPA has done extraordinary work for all sections of society.
*Do you see a ‘Modi wave’ sweeping the country?
A set of people influenced by a certain section of the media is projecting that there is a Modi wave in the country. In rural areas, where the reach of TV channels is negligible, we don’t see any Modi wave.
In fact, the common people in non-Hindi speaking rural areas of the country don’t even know who Modi is.
*In Punjab, you have fielded senior leaders. Is there a strategy behind it?
Yes. Our cadre demanded that we field senior leaders to prevent the Akali DalBJP government from manoeuvring the polls through administrative malpractices. There is huge anti-incumbency against the ruling coalition and the senior leaders would be able to effectively highlight misdeeds of the state government.
*Similarly, graft allegations have put your government in Haryana in the dock. Would the Congress be able to come near its 2009 performance (9/10)?
We will definitely benefit from the four-cornered contest in Haryana. We are fighting against BJP-Haryana Janhit Congress, Indian National Lok Dal and Aam Aadmi Party.
The INLD is having a tacit understanding with the BJP as its leaders are openly pitching for Modi as PM. There is no formal charge of corruption against our government and it is only in the media.
Moreover, strict action has been taken against errant legislators and officials. On the other hand, two top INLD leaders are in jail on corruption charges. Being a unique party, the BJP is forging alliances not only with those who have come out of jails but even with those behind bars.
*You faced flak for re-nominating former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal from Chandigarh despite his name having figured in the rail scam.
People in Chandigarh believe that Bansal is innocent and his political rivals were out to tarnish his clean image. The opposition logic is strange.
When the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) unearthed the scam and arrested his nephew in connection with it, then it is okay for them, but when the same CBI says there is no evidence against Bansal, it becomes the Congress Bureau of Investigation.
The voters of Chandigarh have realised the truth and will ensure Bansal’s victory with a thumping majority.