May 22, 2003
Senior Congress leader Arjun Singh, who is known to play his cards carefully, today spoke out against what he called ‘‘groupism’’ in the party and blasted his party colleagues’ ‘‘self-centred approach.’’
He said ‘‘the people around’’ Sonia Gandhi would not allow her to realise her dream. Singh did not name names but the signals were not subtle.
Observers say that with just a few months to go for the polls and the possibility of the Congress opting for a coalition, Singh could well be trying to position himself as the rallying point for all dissident Congressmen.
Singh broke down at a function to mark Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary and spoke out, shocking many partymen, about what he felt ailed the party. Singh said, ‘‘There is no use raising slogans of making Sonia Gandhi the Prime Minister and getting rid of corrupt and communal NDA government, unless we listen to what Rajiv Gandhi had to say.’’
He invoked a speech by Rajiv Gandhi at the Congress Centenary celebrations in Mumbai in 1985 where he talked about the party moving away from masses because of ‘‘power-brokers.’’
‘‘Congress will not be able to take advantage of what the country is presenting it with, unless it gets rid of these issues. Casteism is not the theory of Congress party. Groupism has always been there, but always within a limit. Now it has become the only thing,’’ he later told reporters. ‘‘If I can badger you in whatever manner I can, seems to be the most important thing,’’ he said.
‘‘What I said was, if I am only concerned about what I am getting, then it is a self-centred approach… We need to end this. Not criticise someone for saying it,’’ Singh clarified.
Singh is the third senior Congress leader this year, after V.C. Shukla, who later left the party, and K. Karunakaran, to make public his opinions.
Singh said, ‘‘The next eight or nine months are very crucial. Zamana Congress ki taraf jane ke liye tayar hain. Hamne iska fayda uthana chahiye (The world is ready to go the Congress way. We should make use of that).’’
Singh has requested that copies of Rajiv Gandhi’s speech be made public and circulated among the workers. ‘‘I told Rajiv Gandhi then that what you have said, the Congress needs to do. But my impression is that we ourselves won’t let you do it,’’ he said.
His last candid expression of the party problems was in 1995 when he raised the issues of misgovernance of the Congress government headed by then prime minister Narasimha Rao. In 1996, he formed the Congress (Tewari) along with another senior Congress leader N.D. Tewari, which later merged back with Congress.
“The tribute (to RajivGandhi) is only when you take stock of the situation. I did not say this in a closed room, I said this in a public function of thousands of people,’’ he said.
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