One has seen the discord within the party rise over the past two years. Have you failed to bring various factions together?
Much of what is written or spoken about in the media in this regard is not necessarily true. While there can be differences of opinion in a party, there is no personal animosity. I share good equations with my party colleagues. All of us are working in tandem to revive the party’s electoral fortunes in the coming BMC polls. There is scope for some improvement in the show of unity on public forums, but there isn’t a lot of discord.
There is a general perception that the party has failed to pick itself up after the electoral setbacks of 2014. Your response.
After the defeats in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls, our first challenge was to reconnect with the masses, who were feeling disenchanted with the party. We have made sustained efforts in this direction. Another challenge was to energise the party rank and file, and switch to an opposition party mode. We have succeeded in achieving this to a great deal.
You will be tested the most when party distributes tickets. Revolt within the party had hit prospects in the previous civic polls. What’s your action plan?
Ticket distribution is always a key milestone in an election process; moreso in the Congress. I agree that ticket distribution will be a litmus test for me and the party. There was consensus among all senior party leaders that the ticket distribution process must be decentralised a great deal. So we have now put in place a system where district-level committees will consult local leaders and workers to finalise a consensus candidate for wards. The city leadership will step in and hold deliberations with the district-level committee for cases where such a consensus is missing. Gurudas Kamat had employed the same system in 2007 as the Mumbai unit chief. We are replicating it.
Why was the idea of holding primaries for a candidate’s selection shunned?
While I had come up with a proposal to hold primaries, the opinion was divided. So we decided to drop it. Instead, Rahul Gandhiji suggested another model for collective accountability that has been adopted. So, if a party leader suggests candidature for someone who hasn’t been recommended by the district-level committee as the consensus candidate, s/he would have to own up responsibility in writing for the performance of the candidate. He/she would also be accountable for the victory or the defeat of the candidate.
Your campaign is focussing more on the demonetisation issue these days. How is it a civic related issue?
Why would you think it is not? The common man has been hit the hardest owing to the ill-conceived demonetisation initiative. The real black money hoarders have been let off scot free while the aam aadmi is feeling the pinch. Worse is that the situation is deteriorating every day. In the coming days, you will see this unrest snowball into a big movement against the ruling regime. Our plan is also to expose the hypocrisy of the BJP and the Shiv Sena who freely use money power during elections. They (the BJP and the Sena) will face our surgical strike against use of black money this election.
Since you bring up the surgical strike issue, would you concede that your ‘fake surgical strike’ comment on the Army was an error?
My intention was never to question the Indian Army. The remark was against the BJP, which was seeking political mileage out of the sacrifices and bravery of our jawans. You must also ask the BJP why is it now silent about intensified ceasefire violations by Pakistan, and the killings of jawans after the surgical strike.