In a self-critical mode, key Congress strategist Jairam Ramesh tells Saubhadra Chatterji that the Congress failed to read the mood of the people.
Why did you lose the election so badly?
The BJP’s strategy of communal polarisation paid off. But certainly there was more to that covert polarisation. n Maharashtra, there was no polarisation but the result confounded us. Falling to TRS was unexpected in Telangana. It was a pan-India Modi tsunami.
There is also a paradox. The policies of the Congress empowered people and gave rise to new aspirations. We failed to capture the imagination but Modi was able to articulate and channelise the desire for change.
Rahul Gandhi’s leadership has failed to give results.
You can’t generalise and say this election is a repudiation of an individual. In Maharashtra, there was little to do with Rahul Gandhi. What happened in Telangana? Our rallies were well attended but we lost.
This is the first time Rahul led the party in polls and he failed. Shouldn’t he be replaced?
It won’t be the last time either. Accountability means learning the appropriate lessons and making the necessary corrective steps. I hope one of the lessons that Rahul learns from this defeat is to become much more visible publicly. Modi won the battle hands down in public visibility and media. Rahul has to be a much more active player in Parliament. Gandhi himself recognises the need for change. He has a sharp, analytical mind. He will recognise what went wrong at organisational level and at his level.
Not a single candidate out of the primaries could win.
When there is a wave, primary, secondary, tertiary doesn’t matter. We just need strong, regional leaders who do not look to support Delhi. The Congress must remain a national party but with strong local roots. And by the way, this is also Mr Gandhi’s views. He has set up the JN leadership institute for grooming leaders.
Is it time for Priyanka Gandhi to assume formal responsibilities in the party?
The need in the Congress is to stop looking for individuals as a magic wand and look at systems, procedures, structures and groom regional leadership. Rahul is trying to do that.