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BJP was routed in Madhya Pradesh bypolls, feel its time is up, says Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia

Member of Parliament from Guna, Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, says Congress will undergo a resurgence with Rahul Gandhi at the helm.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2018 17:20 IST
Prashant Jha and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Prashant Jha and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jyotiraditya Scindia,Congress,Congress MP
Congress MP from Guna Jyotiraditya Scindia says Congress plenary was historic and he had recommended two areas to focus — employment and empowerment of women.(HT File Photo)

With its 84th plenary last week, the Congress formally endorsed the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as party president. A key leader of the new Congress is Jyotiraditya Scindia, member of Parliament from Guna, chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha, and one of its most important leaders in Madhya Pradesh, which goes to polls this year. Scindia spoke to Prashant Jha and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi on a range of issues. Edited excerpts:

What are the big takeaways from the Congress plenary?

It has been a historic plenary. We have a new Congress president who exemplifies not only youth but a new form of thinking combined with a deep respect for the tradition of secularism, unity and a belief in not only pure rapid growth but growth with equity for every citizen.

This plenary was also important because it has set the agenda for the nation. What is the Congress’s blueprint when we come to power in 2019? The fundamental precepts will include an environment of peace and stability; an environment of respect and dignity for every citizen; an environment to understand differing, even contradictory, points of view; an ability to chart India back to the path of growth, bring back our agrarian communities from the depth of despair, power manufacturing to 25% of the share of the GDP, and exploring new avenues of investment in the areas of services. I had recommended two areas we should look at — one, jobs, jobs, and jobs; and second, empowerment of women.

The plenary also focused on the transition to the new generation. India is a young country and we have to be representative of that as a party, while ensuring that we have the guidance of the elders in maintaining the right balance.

You have worked with both Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul. What is the difference between them?

Every successful leader leaves her or his imprint. Mrs Gandhi’s contribution to the party and the country is probably unparalleled. She came in at a critical time for the party. She rebuilt it brick by brick and brought it to power twice in a row. It was due to her efforts that you could bring together a coalition of parties with a common goal of preserving not only our economic model but our age-old ethos of secularism, fraternity, equality and freedom of speech and expression. To be able to win the trust of your party and of allies, and maintain the trust over a 20-year period, is an unbelievable feat in such a large, complex, and diverse democracy like ours.

Now that responsibility has moved to Rahul Gandhi. I believe he has all the capabilities to take India into a new paradigm. He is a man who has extremely strong beliefs, ethics and values, and will not compromise on them. He is a long-term player. He believes in the richness of Indian democracy, and has a respect for every

Indian citizen. That is what India needs today.

As we move to 2019, you are facing the Bharatiya Janata Party which has a formidable election machine, which is in power in over 20 states, and has 15 chief ministers of its own. How will you take them on?

I need to give you only two examples. Example one is what Rahul Gandhi quoted in his concluding plenary speech – the story of the Mahabharata. Example two, and I am going in chronological order, is our freedom struggle. In both examples, the parties concerned were facing against impossible odds but won.

Obviously, there are a lot of tasks we need to complete. But the Congress is a phenomenal organisation. We don’t need to be overawed by what you call the machine, but build our own house. If we imbibe in our workers the causes and issues I have mentioned, the strength of our workers and party will help us get to power to serve.

One of the other takeaways from the plenary was you would be open to ‘pragmatic alliances’. We are also seeing the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party come together in Uttar Pradesh. What kind of alliance can we expect before 2019?

You will see an alliance of like-minded parties coming together.

Will this be pre-poll?

A majority of it could be pre-poll. Some could be post-poll.

Will Congress serve as the principal anchor of the alliance or supplement it?

I believe that the Congress has a fundamental role in any such alliance. But that decision will be taken by the combine of the coalition.

Your resolution was silent on this

It will evolve. We are not like the BJP that it is my way or the highway. I strongly believe that the Congress will be the anchor but it is for all members of the coalition to arrive at that conclusion. That is the way you evolve a consensus.

How important are the upcoming elections in Karnataka?

It will set the trend. We have had a string of by-election successes – Rajasthan, MP, UP, Bihar. When I say we, I mean like-minded parties. I think that momentum has to be maintained with the victory of Karnataka. With the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the track record of Siddaramaiah ji, a large team of very experienced leaders in

Karnataka, the results will be telling of the new resurgence of the Congress.

In Gujarat, a lack of a credible face may have hurt the party’s prospects. Do you think the party should have a chief ministerial face in Madhya Pradesh and who should it be?

I am very clear on this. These are all decisions taken by the high command. As a loyal soldier of the Congress party, I will stand by whatever decision the party takes.

You have said in the past the party should have a face.

I have not said that about Madhya Pradesh. That is my opinion with regard to any state in India where you have capable people. But every state has its own complexities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. I will abide by the decision of the party.

You have just won bypolls in your own area. But chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a strong and entrenched leader. How do you see the battle ahead?

If you have had five by-elections in the past year in the state, and you have lost all five, I don’t know what your definition of entrenchment is. My definition of entrenchment is of finding a place in the hearts of the people. That place is never permanent. You have to continually live up to those expectations, abide by the relationship.

I believe BJP’s time is up in MP. We have had five bypolls, three directly in my area, and we have won all five. BJP has been routed. In a state where you fire bullets into the chest of innocent farmers, what have we come to? We have had a situation when farmers are taken into a jail, stripped naked and beaten only because they were asking for loan waiver, for the right price for their produce.

Is internal factionalism still the Congress’s biggest problem in MP?

There is no factionalism. We are all working together. We have been doing so for the past one, one-and-a-half years.

There was great anathema for over a decade; there was factionalism; we can’t get away from that fact but in the last few years, all the top leaders of MP have been working together, which is why you are seeing the turnaround in results.

We have realised that the fight in MP is not between the BJP and the Congress, but is a fight to safeguard the future of 7.5 crore citizens of the state. We are single-minded in our aim to oust the anti-farmer, anti-women, anti-youth, corrupt government in Madhya Pradesh.

First Published: Mar 26, 2018 07:21 IST