The Congress victory in assembly polls especially in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has brought cheer to the Opposition camp. The victory has consolidated Congress’ position among the opposition parties ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan to know what his party learned from this victory and its strategy for 2019. Vadakkan who candidly replied to all questions, said the grand old Congress party is still relevant in Indian politics. The shelf value of Modi-Shah duo has expired. He deplored the manner in which both PM and the BJP targetted Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his family. Vadakkan said that the poll results was the reflection of people's growing anger and discontent over the ruination of their lives because of the faulty policies of BJP-led central and state governments. Instead of providing relief to farmers, youth, women and workers, people have seen how resources of the country were being looted under BJP rule.
IC: The BJP’s attempts to make Congress-mukt Bharat got a jolt with the results of the recent assembly polls. Does the Congress want a BJP-mukt Bharat?
Tom Vadakkan: Congress President Rahul Gandhi has already stated that the Congress does not believe in wiping out the opposition. The BJP has a right to exist as a political party. The Congress will fight them politically.
IC: What are the challenges before the Congress ahead of Lok Sabha elections?
The challenge before Congress is to do course correction on issues of agrarian crisis, unemployment and insecurity among the minority communities before 2019 elections. It has to be done before the Lok Sabha polls next year. The headlines management is the focus of the BJP government, which has been exposed.
IC: Will this victory help the Congress to play a bigger role in 2019 and stake its claim for the PM’s post?
This is a big fight of ideologies. We stand on a platform of secular ideology. Who will become PM, or who will not, is not an issue. The numbers in general election results, will decide. The opposition's unity has won in these elections. It is written on the wall that the opposition parties will stay united for 2019 elections. That message has been conveyed by people of India in assembly poll results.
IC: The countdown for 2019 Lok Sabha elections has begun. What will be the opposition mantra?
The mantra of unity is secularism, idea of India and prosperity for all Indians across the board.
Q: How is Congress’s idea of India different from BJP's idea of India?
For Congress, India is a pluralistic society. All of us will fight together if any force tries to divide us. We are the practitioners of this theory. The questions of gender equality and protection of minority communities are extremely important to us. We have always been with the weaker sections and minority communities of the society. We have no compunctions in stepping into those roles which will help in maintaining unity and prosperity of the country. The issues of agrarian crisis and unemployment will not be kept for chilling and it will be acted upon.
IC: Modi and Amit Shah jodi has always fought election from the front. After 2014 Lok Sabha polls, they have seen victory election after election, except in Karnataka. The jodi has failed to show the magic in these assembly elections. Your views.
There is an element of fatigue. How long can you fool the people? How long can you run the country on propaganda and promises unfulfilled? You need to take farmers, students, minorities etc. all along. You have to work for development and not just make promises. Governance means that everybody gets a level playing field and not just a few. It is time for them to reflect if they want to continue as a party.
IC: The BJP has been raising the issue of Ram Temple with full force now. Do you think it can use the ram temple card and return to power in 2019?
Ram temple is an election jumla which the BJP has used to garner votes, election after election. The BJP has used the name of Shri Ram to create a situation of dividing people. People have woken up. The BJP's own ally, Shiv Sena, has raised questions on ram temple .The BJP needs to answer its ally.
IC: What will be your strategy to stop BJP's politics of polarisation?
The people have given an answer to this and if they still do not mend, they will face similar results in next elections.
IC: Throughout the electioneering, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have targeted the Congress president and his family much more than they took on the Congress’s state leaders or their policies. Do you expect a change in the BJP's tone now while referring to Rahul Gandhi and his family?
They have realised it at a very high cost. Denigrating anybody doesn't help you. In fact, Rahulji was more graceful at a press conference where he thanked the Chief Ministers of three states for the work they have done. He also said that the Congress has ideological difference with the BJP. Name calling and jibes don't work. The job of opposition is to ask questions.
IC: It is clear that the opposition's unity can stop Modi and his bandwagon from returning to power. What will be shape and size of Mahagatbandhan now that the Congress got victory in three big states?
We have created a level playing field for all secular forces to combine. The response from BSP and SP, even though they had put up their candidates in assembly elections, is a clear indication that the ‘will’ is there. Now it is a question of details. I am sure that all these parties will come together and prepare a ‘common minimum programme’ under which they will work. Other matters will be discussed by senior leaders and sorted out.
IC: Will Rahul Gandhi be the face of opposition in 2019 polls?
Rahulji, who has used the word ‘will’, has already become the face of top leaders in India. Now it is for them to realise that he has handled assembly elections singlehandedly in these states. He will be a driving force. The consensus is not about me and you, but about us.(Published on 17th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 51)