Indian Express

Party men would like Priyanka to campaign all over: Anand Sharma

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Anand Sharma Anand Sharma

Would you concede this is the most difficult poll the Congress has ever faced?

Yes. And I will give you three reasons. There is definitely an element of anti-incumbency… and also the influence of a systematic, high-voltage campaign targeting the government and the unfair vilification of the leadership… The second reason is the kind of money being used by the BJP. By conservative estimates, the BJP is spending at least Rs 10,000 crore only on publicity… The third factor is that the BJP ran a concerted and systematic campaign for months and months to malign us. While they levelled false charges against the government, we did not step out in time… We allowed the negative narrative to be built up for far too long.

Why didn’t you counter it?

I think the positives were not effectively communicated. I can attribute this to a number of factors. Maybe the kind of publicity the governments do, we did not… Frankly speaking it is not that the PIB or the DAVP did not do it. They did. But somewhere it did not register.

One view is that the PM was not communicating enough.

Not only the prime minister, I think collectively we should concede that we should have been saying this, that we are a government committed and accountable…

The opposition has often questioned the PM’s silence.

That is his nature. It is not in his personality to claim credit for the achievements. On a few occasions, he has spoken out. His courteous nature and humility should not be misconstrued otherwise.

Was he silent because he did not have full control?

That is a canard being spread. When it came to the government, it was entirely left to the PM, as the leader of the team, to take charge of issues related to governance and policies. When it came to priorities, after all it is a Congress-led government, on certain issues like the social security net, NREGA, loan waiver or food security, the Congress did have a say. These were decisions taken in the core group in which both PM and the Congress president are there.

The NAC was often called the super-cabinet.

That is a wrong assessment. I don’t think it had any influence when it came to decision-making or governance.

Is it a fact that you did not take Narendra Modi seriously initially?

I must give the RSS and Modi credit for one thing. They have meticulously planned and drafted the campaign and in a way managed to create an artificial image. They packaged and marketed something that is not there. The packaging is good, but inside there is a substandard product.

The Congress has been reluctant to package its leader; Rahul Gandhi himself has been reluctant.

See, we are an incumbent government. We have a PM in office, a government in office. Respecting the parliamentary form of government, there was no way we could have announced (Rahul as PM candidate)… Besides, we respect the Indian electorate unlike the RSS continued…

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