Sheila Dikshit, former Delhi CM, discusses Congress rout with Manoj CG.
What went wrong in the polls?
What didn’t go wrong? I don’t think we were aggressive enough in our campaign. All right, we did not make any false promises. But we did not show off or speak about the 15 years of good work that is recognised by all, including other parties. And there was an absence of direction.
Was there a strategic blunder?
A strategy was not even thought of. It is not a blunder.
Some Congress leaders now say your services should have been used more effectively.
I had already said I will not accept any political position, nor will I contest, but I was there to help all the time. I went to whichever MLA wanted me to come. In the big meetings, I only went to Sonia Gandhi’s because she, they, asked me to… Those people who were making the strategy, it was their thinking and their approach to the whole thing that led to this kind of debacle. I don’t think they had a vision.
Ajay Maken was given charge of the campaign. How do you view that?
It was the party’s decision. No comments on that. But the last-minute decision to bring Maken and not fielding (Arvinder Singh) Lovely did create confusion… I don’t want to make any personal assessment. But I can say that he (Maken) did not put the right focus on the campaign. His style did not help the Congress. I can only pity him.
Did it ever feel like the Congress was in the fight?
Despite the fact there were drawbacks in what we did — I mean we could have done a much better campaign — one of the reasons Kejriwal had this astounding victory was that we were not present. Because they have taken our vote. The Congress has always had a connect with the people of Delhi. That connect, we had lovely rallies and we had very good meetings and all, but beyond that, the groundwork, the connect was not there.
Will this have a national impact?
It is going to have an impact, which we should really worry about. I have always believed in one thing. We have reached the rock bottom, from there we can only come up. We must make efforts to reinvent ourselves, to fit into this new political scenario.
Many leaders say there seems no real effort to revive the party in the nine months since the LS polls.
It is not that the Congress is not discussing, it is not worried or it is not thinking. But a way out, and a way out which is sustainable and implementable, that is what we are looking for. And that will take a little time. I agree with you that people are not getting this impression, but I can assure you that we are worried… We are extremely worried. I am sure we will collectively think of something. I cannot give you a time table for that.
A lack of effort is being cited as a reason for the Delhi defeat. Is Rahul Gandhi to be blamed ?
That is not fair. What about the Delhi leaders? What were they doing? We have a PCC, DCC and blocks. I don’t think it is fair to blame him. Rahul was not contesting. The local leaders are responsible for planning and organising. Elections are not only about speeches, it is more about organising.
How would you suggest Rahul revive the party?
We have to start from the ground. There used to be system where the blocks and the districts would meet every month. PCCs would meet once in two months. Congress was kind of a club: people used to sit together, talk, exchange ideas. That has to come back. I am sure Rahul will think of it.
What should be done to get back the support base in Delhi?
Kejriwal worked very hard, systematically. Let’s face it. In the Congress, the drive wasn’t that drive. The BJP made some blunders. We had riots in Delhi; for 15 years there were no riots. Then there were attacks on churches. We in Congress should have told the people this, very aggressively. I didn’t hear that.
Do you feel the Modi magic is over?
No, I would not say that. Depends on how he works. Because in politics or in governance, the moment matters. You can win and you can lose, you can be very popular with a particular scheme and you can be very unpopular at some point.