A year after he resigned as Congress president, Rahul Gandhi has said that he doesn’t need to be in that post to fight for the party or to work on strengthening it, and his sister, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, said she is in full agreement with her brother that a non-Gandhi should be appointed the party chief, according to their interviews in a new book.
There are “plenty of people capable” of leading the party, Priyanka is quoted in the book. “If there were to be another party president, he would be my boss,” she has said. “If he tells me tomorrow that he doesn’t want me in Uttar Pradesh but wants me to be in Andaman and Nicobar (Islands), then I would jolly well go to Andaman and Nicobar.”
The book, India Tomorrow: Conversations with the Next Generation of Political Leaders, by Pradeep Chhibber and Harsh Shah, was launched last week.
Asked what he would do if the party asks him to return as its president, Rahul is quoted as having said: “I’m here, standing by the Congress Party and ready to fight for it because I believe in the party. I don’t need to be the Congress president in order to fight for the party or to work on strengthening it.”
Rahul said the Congress has to develop a culture of accountability, and that “begins right at the top.” He said, “I’m pretty clear in my mind that I am accountable for the 2019 (General Election) loss and that I had to step down as a consequence.”
Asked whether that decision was supported by the family, he said, “We have obviously discussed this as a family and I have listened to and appreciated my mother and sister’s perspectives.”
Asked how she envisions her family’s role in the party going forward, and about the debate both in favour of the continuance of Gandhis at the helm and for a fresh leadership, Priyanka said, “As I see my brother’s role and my role, if we could enable that process of actually empowering other young people to participate and become leaders, then we would have achieved something.”
She said: “As my brother said very clearly in his resignation letter post [after] the elections that he thinks he should take responsibility for the last election. And perhaps not in the letter but elsewhere, he has said that none of us should be president of the party and I am in full agreement with him. I think that the party should find its own path also.”
Rahul, according to party leaders, had in internal meetings after last year’s defeat in the General Election suggested that a non-Gandhi should be Congress president, the book says.
On whether the presence of the Gandhi family wouldn’t undermine a party president from outside the family, Priyanka said: “I think it would only undermine somebody if that was the way we wanted to be. But if we wanted to step back and give other people the freedom to take decisions and do anything, I don’t see why there should be an encumbrance…”
She said the family believes in democratisation of the party and pointed out that Rahul had conducted internal elections in Youth Congress and NSUI to enable new and young talent to come in. “…oddly enough, he was attacked from within his party for it,” she said.
Priyanka was also asked about the allegations against her husband, Robert Vadra, and how she deals with it at the dining table with her children.
She said: “After all the allegations were made about my husband, my first reaction was to pay a visit to my 13-year-old son and to show him every single transaction. I talked to him about the allegations, and told him that this is what is being alleged, this is what the truth is, and that he has to assess it for himself. I explained this to my daughter as well.
“I don’t hide things from my children, even the mistakes I make or the weaknesses I have. I am very open with them.”
Ever since the BJP-led NDA has come to power, she said, Vadra has been under “tremendous attack and stress”. She said, “He has been interrogated for hours by the Enforcement Directorate. Now that the kids are much older, they are exposed to television debates and all sorts of things almost on a daily basis. So it has been hard for them.”
“My son was in an all-boys boarding school, and he faced a lot of difficulties there because of these things. My daughter here has had to deal with things,” she was quoted saying in the book.