Rahul Gandhi is all set to take over as Congress chief from his mother Sonia Gandhi even as the party is busy completing an elaborate process of electing state chiefs, members of central bodies and the president. Congress vice president who is campaigning in Gujarat elections these days, is likely to be elevated unopposed.
Senior Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai, Rajyasabha MP, who has known Gandhis from close quarters, said that Gandhis are relevant for the Congress and India. She agreed that the challenges before him would be enormous but expressed confidence in his abilities to meet those challenges. She regretted that the ideology being imposed by the current dispensation is dangerous for the country and added that people will reject it outright.
IC: Rahul Gandhi is expected to take over the party reins in few days’ time, as reports indicate. Are you optimistic about the party becoming stronger following his ascension?
Mohsina Kidwai: Why do people raise questions about capabilities of Rahul Gandhi? He has all the qualities of a leader who can run grand old Congress party with conviction. Under him, the party will prosper. It is regretful that Nehru family has always been targeted by the opposition and the media which raised questions about their leadership, from time to time. Indira Gandhi had been targeted after she took over the party. She proved her mettle and emerged as one of the strongest leaders of India whose views mattered on issues of international importance. Because of her leadership qualities, India's views were always taken seriously by other countries. She was considered as an Iron lady who always stood for her country and its people. India won 1971 Bangladesh war because of her vision and leadership skills as she had compelled 90,000 Pakistani troops to surrender. When Rajiv Gandhi came, he too had been targeted. Rajiv made a significant contribution in telecommunication field besides several other areas. After Rajiv, Sonia Gandhi showed her strength and proved her leadership qualities. Sonia is a mature politician. Now Rahul Gandhi is being targeted. The reality is that they (the BJP and its allies) are underestimating the power of both Congress party and Rahul Gandhi. Congress is an ideology based party. The party is being run on ideology only.
IC: The questions are not being raised on Congress ideology but on leadership. Why is it that only Gandhi family or somebody from the Gandhi family alone can run this grand old party and nobody else?
You look at the sacrifices done by Gandhi family for the nation. Those (the RSS) who claim themselves to be nationalists, excused themselves from the freedom struggle. I salute those who fought for Independence of India. As far as Indira Gandhi is concerned, she sacrificed her life for unity, diversity and communal harmony of the country. Gandhi family is on top of the list of those who sacrificed their lives for the nation. Brave people can sacrifice their life for the nation.
IC: Winning elections are crucial for any political party's survival. Rahul Gandhi does not have any impressive record in helping Congress win elections. Precisely for this reason, there are doubts about his ability to lead the party. Your views?
I differ with you. Elections cannot be benchmark for success or failure of any political party. It is up to the voters to decide which party they want to vote for or against. The ideology of a party is extremely important. The Congress party has Gandhian ideology. What is the ideology of the current dispensation? What type of ideology is being imposed on the people of this country?
Another important thing is party manifesto on the basis of which a party contests an election. The Congress had worked for abolition of Zamindari system, removal of untouchability and formation of foreign policy in order to fulfil promises made before Independence. The party did not care for the fact that some of the issues would ruin its electoral prospects. The party has always made efforts to fulfil promises made in the election manifesto.
IC: What, according to you, will be the challenges for Rahul Gandhi when he takes over as top boss?
The biggest challenge will be creation of job opportunities for youth, maintain unity in diversity and welfare of farmers in the country. The future of Congress will be safe and prosperous under Rahul Gandhi. It will be wrong to underestimate Gandhi family which has sacrificed so much for the country. Gandhi family is still a binding force of the Congress. A young leader like him will lead the party. He is committed to the nation. It is wrong to expect one generation to do everything. They (the BJP) are indulging in petty politics only. Instead of indulging in petty politics, we need to think of future of our country.
IC: So you are not in favour of bullet train and measures like this being undertaken by the Modi government?
I am in favour of bullet train but it will be used by few rich people and a select part of India. The top priority should be to help lakhs of farmers and improve agricultural production. Congress has worked for infrastructural development of the country.
IC: Is it not true that Gujarat and Himachal elections will be another litmus test for Rahul Gandhi and his leadership? Or your target is to fight 2019 general elections under Rahul Gandhi's leadership?
We want to make things better. One of the things is communal harmony. Job opportunity is another thing. Congress has a vision for the country. People will know of his qualities once he takes over.
IC: How will Rahul Gandhi rejuvenate the Congress party which won just 44 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections?
It is wrong to underestimate him. He has been really working hard to improve the prospects of the party. He went abroad and spoke like a statesman. The impact was visible back at home. The ruling party is scared of Congress party and Rahul Gandhi both. Precisely, for this reason, they are targeting him repeatedly.
IC: Rahul Gandhi is expected to name his new team, once he his formally elected. Do you foresee changes in the Congress Working Committee ?
It will be up to him. He will choose his new team. He will decide who he wants or does not want in his team. We wish that he succeeds in his mission. All of us are committed to the ideology of the Congress party. We have always fought elections on the basis of ideology.
IC: Why did not Priyanka Gandhi lead the party? She, according to political experts, would have been a better choice than Rahul Gandhi.
Speculative stories about Priyanka have been doing the rounds. There was propaganda by the media about her. Priyanka is working for the party only. It is up to her as to what she wants to do.(Published on 27th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 48)