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Lok Sabha elections 2019- ‘Priyanka Gandhi’s political entry energized Congress’: KC Venugopal

“I had no other option but to sit out as the party had given me a lot of responsibilities for the elections,” the 56-year-old Congress leader from Kerala told HT in an interview.

lok sabha elections Updated: May 16, 2019 19:04 IST
Amrita Madhukalya
Amrita Madhukalya
New Delhi
KC Venugopal,Priyanka Gandhi,Congress
Congress general secretary KC Venugopal says a Rajya Sabha route for him is now a decision for the party to take.(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

Congress general secretary KC Venugopal says a Rajya Sabha route for him is now a decision for the party to take. Just before the Lok Sabha elections began, he had announced that he has opted out of the race to pay more attention to party matters.

“I had no other option but to sit out as the party had given me a lot of responsibilities for the elections,” the 56-year-old Congress leader from Kerala told HT in an interview. “My primary responsibility was candidate selection of the party’s faces in 29 states. The process concluded on April 21 and elections in my state ended on April 23. Elections in Kerala are a serious contest, and a candidate should be present for at least 25-30 days as it is very political state.”

Venugopal took over the reins of the role as the party’s general secretary of organisation and training in January this year, after Ashok Gehlot became the chief minister of Rajasthan. His decision to sit out had surprised many.

Venugopal says that the party’s collective decision to ensure president Rahul Gandhi fights from the Wayanad seat, apart from his traditional borough Amethi, was to counter BJP’s “divisive politics”. “He (Gandhi) understands that in the face of BJP’s divisive politics, where language, religion and region become grounds of discrimination, we should send in a message of unity. If we look back at this contest, the people of South India have taken to the message well,” said Venugopal. However, he adds that Gandhi will “take a decision at the appropriate time” on whether he retains Wayanad as his seat.

While the Congress approached the Lok Sabha elections with an initial high of the party’s wins in the three heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Balakot strike made the way for the BJP to set in a narrative of nationalism, leaving the Congress to react to an agenda set by it. Venugopal denies that the Congress fell for the trap.

“We did not fall into their trap, and stuck to the genuine issue of the people when a Central government is elected. Narendra Modi has nothing to say about his good governance or what he has delivered in the last five years. So, cleverly, the BJP wanted to divert the genuine issues to nationalism,” says Venugopal. “But where is the BJP’s nationalism to be found in the history of India; there are no prominent BJP leaders in the freedom movement, or during the post-Freedom phase. In a country like India, uniting the country is nationalism, and that’s what we have done.”

The entry of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, he says, has invigorated the party and added to the efforts of her brother. “The Congress president’s efforts to gear up for the elections began more than two years ago, building the party up from the booth-level. Her entry has added another attraction to his efforts,” he says.

With six phases of the elections over, he says that while the party is confident of its chances on May 23, the initial strategy is a waiting game. “We are confident of a good number of seats, and it is safe to say that we will be in a comfortable situation. But as far as post-poll situations arise, it is premature to say what will happen or who will take over. We are waiting for May 23,” says Venugopal.

First Published: May 16, 2019 19:04 IST