Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha, MP from Berhampore and Bengal state Congress president, spoke to The Indian Express. Excerpts:
IN the aftermath of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, Rakesh Tikait and Chandra Shekhar Azad were allowed to visit the families, but not Congress leaders. Why?
This is a clear manifestation that the ruling dispensation and BJP Chief Ministers favour regional parties like Bhim Party and Trinamool Congress. This is because they think these parties and outfits have soft approaches and can be allowed. Access provided to them will not affect the BJP. So the BJP thinks it prudent allow Tikait and TMC. TMC has been playing second fiddle by subverting the convergence of Opposition parties. For the BJP, the carrot is for TMC, the stick for Congress.
But the sheer grit and determination shown by Priyanka Gandhi and the uncompromising attitude of the Congress compelled the BJP government to yield. Her vigour and valour which resisted intimidation by the Yogi government has lifted the morale of Congress workers across the country and we will, henceforth, expect her to play a more assertive role.
What is Congress’s strategy in UP?
There is no political strategy. It is a gesture of solidarity with the farming community. It was a humanitarian and moral outreach to the farming community. Political strategy will be worked out by senior leaders and it will be made known to you. Right at this moment the Congress party will continue to protest against the brutal attitude of the government. Why were farmers mowed down? The BJP Government has to answer this.
Congress leaders, former CMs and MLAs, leaders in states like Assam, Goa and Meghalaya are joining TMC and speaking of “joining the Congress family”?
Mamata Banerjee is trying to turn Congress to Congress (M) by inducing and alluring Congress leaders from various parts of India. Through that, she is becoming an instrument of Modi’s hold on power. She is driving a wedge in the opposition coalition. I would like to remind you that it was late Rajiv Gandhi who promoted her in the Congress hierarchy. Later, she got ministerial berths in Congress-led UPA. Now that same person because of her political ambition is stabbing Congress in its back. Congress is a soft target because she still enjoys proximity with some Congress leaders.
You are implying that TMC is trying to emerge as the new Congress?
In the last Lok Sabha elections, BJP secured 37.36 percent of votes. Sixty three percent voted against BJP. The electoral arithmetic, without stitching an alliance, will not be able to stop the Modi juggernaut. Mamata Banerjee has started to subvert. Deliberate subversion by the TMC, in collusion with Prashant Kishor’s IPAC, is likely to offer relief to BJP…There is nothing illogical for someone to dream to be PM. But without stitching an alliance it will not be possible to harness electoral dividends. Interestingly, after being interrogated by ED (Enforcement Directorate in Delhi), the nephew of Mamata Banerjee went virulently against Congress. His arguments were based on falsehood. The BJP was preceded by RSS in 1925. Since its inception, the Congress has fought against BJP politically, ideologically and culturally…Mamata Banerjee was BJP’s blue-eyed in the first NDA government where she got Railways portfolio. She had an alliance with BJP and it got two MPs from Bengal. The party was alien to people here. She must ask for pardon from the people of Bengal for invoking BJP in the state.
Amarinder Singh leaves the party, then Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns, what’s the problem with the party in Punjab?
It is unfortunate what happened in Punjab. Mr Singh played a crucial role in the Congress, he is a senior leader, but in the past five years, his popularity eroded, there’s anti-incumbency factor. At the fag end of his tenure, the party asked him to step aside. This was to dilute the anti-incumbency factor. Mr Singh said Sidhu is sentimental. I think he is as sentimental as Mr Sidhu. Seventy-eight MLAs opposed him…there was no personal animosity. Mr Sidhu is also a popular leader.
In Chhattisgarh, we also see a faceoff between CM Bhupesh Baghel and T S Singh Deo.
It’s up to our high command. I am not aware of what the high command has said about the Chief Ministership…all I can say is that Mr Baghel as well as Mr Singh Deo both are our senior and respected leaders and they have the political maturity to sort out any differences. As for those who have issues within our party, I appeal to them not to do anything that will strengthen the hands of BJP.
Please don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Mr Sibal said something and some youths became emotional. Throwing tomatoes and things like that. We do not support what the youths did. But at the same time, Mr Sibal is a senior Congress leader and our Rajya Sabha member. He could and can always talk to Rahulji and Soniaji. We are all part and parcel of Congress. Is it apt for our leadership to talk about anything and everything publicly?