Making a strong introspection about his own party, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday admitted that the grand old party is currently facing an “existential crisis” and called for “a collective effort” by party leaders to overcome the challenges it is facing from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. According to him, business as usual approach will not work against Modi and Shah and that party leaders need to show flexibility in their approach to make Congress relevant.
In an exclusive interview to PTI, Ramesh stated the Congress had faced “electoral crisis” from 1996 to 2004 when it was out of power and also faced a similar situation in 1977 when it lost the elections held immediately after the emergency. “But today, I would say that the Congress is facing an existential crisis. It is not an electoral crisis. The party really is in deep crisis,” Ramesh said.
“We have to understand we are up against Mr Modi, Mr Shah. And they think differently, they act differently, and if we are not flexible in our approach, we will become irrelevant, frankly,” the Congress leader further said.
The veteran leader also justified the Gujarat Congress’s decision to send 44 of its MLAs to a resort in Karnataka on July 29 so as to prevent the alleged “poaching” attempts by BJP ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls, saying the saffron party had also “transported” its MLAs in the past.
Stressing the need for the Congress to change its strategy, Ramesh said, “Old slogans don’t work, old formulas don’t work, old mantras don’t work. India has changed, the Congress party has to change,” he said.
Commenting on uncertainty whether Rahul Gandhi will take over as the Congress President, the former Union Minister expressed hope that the Gandhi scion will take the reins of the party before the end of 2017. “I have only expectation. That’s all. In 2018 and 2019 you will be busy with elections. State elections, national elections…and this type of thing…uncertainty is not good,” he said, urging Gandhi to end the uncertainty.
Describing Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to return to the NDA fold as a “complete betrayal of the mandate”, the Congress leader admitted that it was a big setback for the anti-BJP coalition in the country. “Personally, I was aghast, astonished, deeply disappointed, but we have to move on and we don’t have time,” said Ramesh, who shares a personal rapport with Kumar.
With PTI inputs