Mumbai: Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, a member of a group of dissidents in the party, has said that he has not been able to meet senior leader Rahul Gandhi in the last four years.
There was no `chintan’ or introspection at the recent Congress conclave in Udaipur, he told the Times of India podcast which released on Thursday.
I occasionally meet Dr Manmohan Singh whenever I am in Delhi. But his health is not what it used to be earlier. He is always hospitable and ready to talk. I have also met Sonia Gandhi whenever I sought time, but I haven’t been able to meet Rahul Gandhi for long time…I think in four years. There is a complaint that the party leadership is not as accessible as it should be, said Chavan during the interview.
The former Union minister is part of the `G-23, a group of dissident leaders who are pressing for organizational reforms in the Grand Old Party which has suffered one electoral setback after another in the recent years.
Speaking about the Udaipur meeting, Chavan said the Congress president had agreed to hold a “chintan shibir” to discuss the issues before the party, but someone “more loyal than the king” decided that a chintan or introspection wasn’t needed.
“So, the Udaipur meeting was a `nav-sankalp (new resolution) shibir.’ The party felt that a post-mortem was not needed and it only needed to look at the future,” he said.
“There should have been an honest introspection, not to fix accountability or hang people, but to ensure that we don’t repeat those mistakes. After the Assam and Kerala Assembly polls, a committee was formed to go into the party’s performance. But the committee’s report was buried in a cupboard, which is not in the correct spirit of things,” he said.
Chavan also said that Kapil Sibal, who recently quit the party, felt strongly that the Congress leadership wasn’t getting honest advice, and `nominated’ persons only give the advice which the leadership likes.
”If we want to defeat (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi in 2024, we have to do well in the ensuing 12 state Assembly elections. We have to have a large, broad coalition of like-minded parties,” he said.
The Congress was seeing a tussle between “people of experience” and people of “energy”, but a mix of the two is desirable, he said.
Asked about decisions taken during the Nav-sankalp shibir, Chavan said these decisions have to be ratified by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) before they become binding.
”We expected a chintan (introspection), which is a difficult exercise. Reports of the committees set up after the previous election debacles should have been discussed,” he said.
Division of votes helped the BJP win, and a large coalition has to be led by Congress as a national alternative, Chavan said.
There was a leadership vacuum in Congress in several states, so regional parties are trying to fill that space, he said, adding that building a large coalition of like-minded parties was difficult, but not impossible.
”If we lose in 2024, the spirit of liberal democracy will be lost. We have to undertake elections in the party at the earliest,” Chavan said. He also opined that pursuing “soft Hindutva” was not a good strategy as people would rather go in for the BJP’s “hard Hindutva” in that case.
”No Muslim voted for Congress in Uttar Pradesh. We have to define secularism very correctly. A state has no religion. It cannot pick one religion over another,” the Congress leader said.