Interview: (Anti-incumbency, SP feud) probably had some impact, says Sheila Dikshit

"For instance, look our wonderful achievement in Punjab. Look at this also and evaluate the whole thing and take whatever corrective steps need to be taken with a consensus," said Sheila Dikshit.

Written by Manoj C G | Updated: March 13, 2017 4:29 am
uttar pradesh electiuons 2017, up polls, up elections, Sheila Dikshit, congress, congress campaign, Sheila Dikshit up elections, indian express news, india news, elections updates Dikshit at her Delhi home. Express archive photo

Former Delhi CM discusses the SP-Cong alliance and election verdict with MANOJ C G

What are the takeaways of the UP result?

The analysis will take place, I think, after Mrs Gandhi is back. And I hope it will be a free and frank analysis. What happened? I would not like to put blame on anybody. Circumstantially it happened. But we have to see what we do in the future.

The Congress’s national footprint is receding fast…

People do look for change. They have the right. But it does not mean that a party that loses will not come back… We have to work together and word hard and get the confidence of the people.

The BJP may get a majority in Rajya Sabha; it may win the presidential and vice-presidential elections. The BJP is on the ascendant.

It is on the ascendant right now. But it does not mean that we don’t work for the future. After all, we ruled the country for 70 years. These ups and downs do take place. For instance, look our wonderful achievement in Punjab. Look at this also and evaluate the whole thing and take whatever corrective steps need to be taken with a consensus.

What are those corrective steps?

We have to first point out what the others are unable to do. The promises, have they been fulfilled or not. At the moment, there is this wave as you all call it. If there is a wave, there is no point. But we must discuss amongst ourselves what are going to be our future plans… and how do we build ourselves.

In the last 2½ years, the Congress has been talking about unfulfilled election promises. But the message is apparently not getting conveyed to the people. So is there an issue of credibility here?

No. It is not an issue of credibility. The issue is we must reach out to the people. In India’s style of democracy you have to reach out to the people. Go to mohallas, villages, people in groups…

Somewhere there is a disconnect?

I would not say disconnect. But it needs to be further strengthened.

In Punjab, the Congress presented a credible face, and the people responded. Is lack of a face an issue?

Remember, he worked very hard also for a year, year and a half. He reached out to the people. So the most important thing for a leader is to reach out to people so that the people are able to identify with him. We have to start all that.

There is a view that after 2014 the Congress has not given an alternative narrative. You have been reacting to what the BJP or the government has been doing.

This can be somebody’s individual point of view. I do feel that, whosoever has said it, it is his or her point of view, but a good point of view. It is everybody’s point of view. But what we need to do is to have greater introspection…

Will the setback in UP delay Rahul Gandhi’s elevation?

That Mrs Gandhi will decide… I don’t think so. We win elections, we lose elections… I look at this way. All right, we have lost a big state, but we also won a critical state, Punjab, after many years.

So do you think it is time for Rahul to take over?

Yes, why not. It is for Mrs Gandhi to decide and the working committee to decide. I think this decision has been taken and it should be implemented.

Do you see a role for Priyanka in active politics?

The decision has to be hers. There is a need for her, there is a demand for her, but she has to take the decision.

Is it time to look beyond the Gandhis?

Not as yet. Now now.

So, there is a possibility later; is that you are suggesting?

I can’t say about what will happen in the future. But not now. We need to fill up whatever the loopholes are… But this is no time to change the leader. I don’t think so.

But the charisma of the Gandhi family seems not to be working now.

We should look at why it is not working, what are we doing about it. Is the party per se that has to think of it all. Why they are not using the charisma. Of course, there is charisma.

Priyanka’s entry, if it happens, will be projected as a failure of Rahul’s leadership.

No, I don’t think so. Rahul has said that he relies a lot on her. Let’s not create a misunderstanding between a brother and sister.

Do you think the anti-incumbency faced by the Samajwadi Party government and the family feud was a baggage the Congress had to share?

Yes, probably it had some impact, certainly. I think the more information comes in, only then will we be able to come to final conclusion. Probably did. Certainly did. But how much of it was there… give a little time for us to analyse.

So, in hindsight was it a wrong decision?

I would not say that it was right or wrong because you don’t know what would have happened had you not had this. We may have done better, we may have done worse. It was a decision taken by the Congress collectively.

The absence of strong leaders in UP was also a drawback?

Yes, we need to develop that. Certainly, I agree. At the end of the day, it is the grassroots workers who create both the ambience and works. In all our districts, we have some leaders… we need to activate them.

You were projected as chief ministerial candidate in UP and then withdrawn.

Personally where do you see yourself in the coming days?

Personally, I don’t see myself doing anything. I am doing my work. Whatever I am asked to do, I do. Whatever I am not asked to do, I don’t do.

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