The Congress will go it alone in the Uttar Pradesh election due early next year, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi has said.
Gandhi is on a 2500-km ‘Kisan Yatra’ across Uttar Pradesh, seeking to revive the Congress in a bellwether state it dominated before regional parties built along caste lines displaced it from power 27 years ago and left it a marginal player.
But Gandhi ruled out any opportunistic election alliances with other parties.
“I feel the Congress should stand on its own and fight the 2017 assembly elections on the basis of its ideology and policies without compromising with them,” he told Hindustan Times in an interview.
Gandhi spoke on a wide range of issues – from questioning the BJP-led central government’s policies that he said promoted businesses above farmers to accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of botching up his response to violence in Kashmir and in dealing with Pakistan.
He also called the Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling PDP-BJP alliance a “crime against India” that had created a space for Pakistan in the troubled region, and said Modi does not listen to the counsel of experts or ministers who understand the problem.
Gandhi, 46, is campaigning through 26 districts of the state whose chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is trying to beat back a power struggle in his Samajwadi Party just months before the election.
Gandhi said Akhilesh raised expectations after his victory but he frittered away the opportunity by tolerating too much corruption and lawlessness.
“Although I am a leader of the opposition, it makes me sad that a young leader like him was unable to deliver,” he said. Akhilesh became chief minister at the age of 39 in 2012.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have alternated power alone or with allies for almost three decades. Gandhi said both parties failed the people of the state for long.
Sharing his opinion on continued protests in Kashmir, Gandhi said the central government had made a mess of a previously successful strategy to tackle militancy in Kashmir. He said the state’s PDP-BJP alliance destroyed all room for Kashmiris to join the political system.
“From my perspective this opportunistic alliance was a crime against India. Everything we did for nine years was wiped out in a matter of days,” he said.
The Congress leader’s comments came after two months of violence in Kashmir that has claimed 86 lives and left more than 10,000 people injured, with widespread protests and discontent against the government and army.
Analysts say the surge in anti-India sentiment had undone decades-long efforts to curb militancy that first broke out in the Valley in 1989. India holds Pakistan responsible for the violence and bilateral relations have rapidly plummeted, especially after an attack on an army base in Uri in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers last weekend.
Gandhi said the BJP had diverted from the successful plan by not talking to local people and not including smaller countries in a global campaign to isolate Pakistan.
“The PM should start listening to experts and his ministerial colleagues. There are brilliant people in our bureaucracy, institutions and agencies,” the Congress leader said.
“The PM talks but he does not listen. People are afraid of telling the PM what they think.”