Sonia and Rahul should speak more: Chidambaram

  • PTI, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 25, 2014 12:00 IST

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday said that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should "speak more" and put in action a timetable that would enable the party to play the role of "true opposition" at a time when the morale of party cadres is "pretty low".

He also said that the reorganisation of the party was due for the larger task of being an "efffective, strong and robust opposition" to the government.

Chidambaram said that Congress President Sonia Gandhi was "numero uno" in the organisation and that the decision in Jaipur in January 2013 to make Rahul Gandhi Vice President was "perhaps the correct decision".

Steering clear of questions about clamour within a section of the party for Priyanka Gandhi, he urged the Congress President and the Vice President "to speak more. I would urge them to address more rallies, urge them to meet the media..."

"I agree that Congress (cadres') morale is pretty low. But I don't agree that the morale cannot be lifted. Direction cannot be given...I am sure the Congress leadership has a timetable.

"I would urge again that timetable be shortened and we get on with the job of a reorganising the party and getting on with the job of being true opposition," he told NDTV, replying to a question about doubts being expressed about Rahul Gandhi's leadership.

Asked can a non-Gandhi become the Congress president, he said, "I think so. Someday yes", but was quick to add, "I do not know" when asked about the timeline for such an eventuality.

"I am too old to aspire for anything now," he, at the same time, said.

His remarks have come at a time when the process of organisational elections has been set in motion, which will culminate into the election of the new party chief by July end next year. Sonia Gandhi is the longest serving party chief being at the helm since March 1998.

To a question as to why the party was over-dependent on one family to lead it, he said, "It so happens that he (Rahul Gandhi) belongs to that family but that does not mean other younger leaders cannot emerge. After all Sachin Pilot has emerged."

The former Finance Minister dismissed suggestions that the party leadership was not talking even to party workers.

"That is not right. I do see them at regular intervals. They do talk to me and I assume that there are others. I would urge them to talk to the public," Chidambaram said when asked about a perception that Congress has become a rudderless ship as Sonia and Rahul are seen or heard very rarely.

His remarks are significant as there has been criticism that lack of communication was one of the reasons for the party's debacle in Lok Sabha elections.

Asked whether he was disappointed by the fact that Sonia has ceded the space and left it to her son, he said, "The question must be put to her. But I think the creation of the post of Vice President and installing Rahul Gandhi to that post was a deliberate strategy to handover the baton to next generation of leadership."

This, he said, was happening at every level. "I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I think the decision in Jaipur was perhaps the correct decision welcomed with great enthusiasm not only in the party but even from people outside the party."

On the issue of leadership, he said, "The most acceptable leader of the party of my generation is Sonia Gandhi and I think among the younger members of the party, there is wide acceptance of Rahul Gandhi. That does not mean other leaders cannot or should not emerge."

The Congress leader also dismissed Finance Minister Arun Jaitleys' remarks that disclosure of the names of blackmoney account holders can embarrass Congress amid speculation that the list could include a former UPA minister.

"These are individual transgressions, individual violations of law. Individual should be embarassed. Why should the party be embarrassed... I do not but if there is the name of any minister, it will embarrass him. Why should it embarass the party. He is not keeping the account of the party. The party did not authorise him to keep that account" he said.

Chidambaram alleged that the government's affidavit in the Supreme Court arguing that it cannot disclose the names was "clearly a U-turn" of BJP's earlier position on the issue as it had criticised the UPA government on the same position.

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