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Congress losing members due to ‘pitfalls of its leadership’: Jaitley

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress is on its way down because of the ‘pitfalls’ of its leadership and compared the party to an “obsolete car” manufacturer.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2016 13:35 IST
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley speaks during an interaction with journalists, in New Delhi.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley speaks during an interaction with journalists, in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has said the Congress is on its way down because of the ‘pitfalls’ of its leadership in a veiled attack on Rahul Gandhi and compared the party to an “obsolete car” manufacturer, which could survive only in the past.

“If you look state after state, the Congress party is losing a lot of its leaders. I see two particular reasons for it. A party, which has dominated India’s politics for six decades and has been in power for almost 50 years or so, has suddenly started taking positions which mainstream parties should not take. Their success is now measured by how much they can obstruct,” Jaitley told PTI during an interaction.

“Secondly, the pitfalls of the leadership, which is not merit based is clearly being reflected... And one of the principal grievances, a lot of its tall leaders have had, was the inability to communicate with the central decision makers or decision maker,” he added.

The finance minister noted that India’s character is also changing to become more youthful, certainly post-Independence generation, and that is why state after state, one now finds merit-based leadership.

“If you prepare a list of all the big business houses or 20 big business houses before 1991 and compare them with the top 20 in 2016, how many in the list are common,” he said.

“The pre-1991 belonged to the family owned companies, beneficiaries of the license regime, those who prevented competition and prevented others from entering. Even if you manufacture an obsolete car, you were near-monopoly player because others were all swept.

“Post 1991, that changed. I think to a large extent, it is symbolic of what’s happening to India. You take any profession. Just because your father was a great lawyer or you were doctor or you had family business does not matter,” Jaitley said.

Listing the problems being faced by Congress in a number of states like Kerala, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Jaitley said that the Congress base was also shrinking in Punjab where elections are due next year.

“There is still a large number of political parties, which crowd around a family. Their strength will depend on the capacity of the current generation to hold it together. And I think the Congress is losing out on that,” he said.

The minister added that “in the few states left with the Congress, it does not seem to be doing very well”.

Citing examples, he said, “Factionalism in Kerala has spoilt its image. In Tamil Nadu, it is virtually being decimated. In West Bengal, it has shrunk. In Assam there has been its major leaders leaving the party, joining the BJP. In states like Delhi, if you saw, they shrank to 8% popular vote. The ruling party of the last time shrank to an 8% popular vote.”

“These trends continue. I can almost see the shrinkage happening in Punjab also. I think this is going to cost it heavily in Assam. It cost them in Arunachal Pradesh.”

Calling the political crisis in Uttarakhand an internal problem of Congress, Jaitley said, “They lost a chunk of leaders because the leaders felt that their central leadership was not available even for a meeting or speaking to them.”

Jaitley was alluding to earlier remarks by Harak Singh Rawat, the rebel Congress leader from the state, who had ridiculed the Congress vice-president for meeting the “sedition accused” JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar while remaining “too busy” to speak to party leaders from the hill state, who had raised a banner of revolt against chief minister Harish Rawat.

Jaitley also attacked the Congress over its role over the JNU row, saying “moderate Left and Congress got trapped into something which was otherwise a movement by the ultra left” and asserted that a mainstream party like Congress cannot do the politics of fringe.