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Ahmed Patel's Victory is a Defeat of Money Power, Misuse of Govt Machinery: Kamal Nath

Congress leader Ahmed Patel early on Wednesday managed to pull of a dramatic victory in Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections. CNN-News18's Marya Shakil spoke to veteran Congress leader Kamal Nath about Ahmed Patel's victory, the drama that preceded it and what it means for the Congress party.

Marya Shakil | CNN-News18maryashakil

Updated:August 9, 2017, 10:09 PM IST
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Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel early on Wednesday managed to pull of a dramatic victory in Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections. CNN-News18's Marya Shakil spoke to veteran Congress leader Kamal Nath about Ahmed Patel's victory, the drama that preceded it and what it means for the Congress party. Edited excerpts:

What does Ahmed Patel's victory mean for a senior Congress leaders like you, who has been a member of parliament for nine terms?

37 years

37 years… Mr Kamalnath, thank so much for your time. Let me begin by asking you, what does Ahmed Patel’s victory mean to people like you who have been in Congress for decades?

I think we have got to look at the larger picture. There is Ahmed Patel's victory but then it is a defeat of money power, the abuse and the misuse of the government machinery. It is really a black spot when India's democracy, which we are proud of as a vibrant democracy and which is respected worldwide, stoops to this level. What happened in Gujarat was that the BJP was using money and muscle power.

But there are claims that your party used money and muscle power

There was never a charge like that, in fact, we abstain from doing so. Let us be very clear about that.

You took your MLAs to Bengaluru.

Obviously, the MLAs were being threatened, they were being allured. This is the politics of allurement – What happened in Arunachal Pradesh? What happened in Assam? What happened in Uttarakhand? These are the examples of the kind of politics that is happening right now. These demons are abusing democracy.

One observation is that it’s the old guard in the Congress that has a fire in the belly. We saw the fiercely contested Rajya Sabha election on Wednesday, where senior party leaders stood in the front line and fought with Ahmed Patel, while the next generation were all missing.

Well, I don't think that you should use the word old guard. I don't know which guard I am but I am obviously the old guard. Of course, we have come up with the kind of politics that was combative, in a decent sense though – not the threat of suppression that is happening now. All around, not merely in the political system but outside as well, this is happening. So of course we have to come out and of course we have got fire in our belly.

This victory is coming at a time when Jairam Ramesh has said that Congress is facing existential crisis, he even went on to say that the ‘Sultanate is gone but that we still behave like sultans’. Who are these sultans that he is talking about?

I don't know who are the sultans he is talking about. This is better answered by him, what he means by that and how he wants it to be interpreted. Certainly it’s the Congress' existence which is at stake. I remember when the BJP won two seats in the parliament, I remember when we lost in 1977, I remember when Mr Vajpayee was in power. People said 'oh Congress is finished'. The people in the country keep saying that.

But somebody from within your party is saying that the congress is finished.

You will have people within the party making all sorts of comments. I don't want to comment on that, but I want to say that there is no question of the existence of the Congress being at stake. Let me be very clear about that. The Congress has always fought its way back and the people believe in the Congress, and what we are seeing these last three years is that the people in this country are simple, are poor, are decent but they are very smart.

So is Tuesday an example of Congress fighting back? Perhaps the fight back is happening from the old guard? The senior leaders who have seen through various transition phases of the congress.

All congress men have to fight back and Tuesday demonstrated that. Tuesday was also a demonstration of the independence of our Election Commission. All the senior minister of the BJP were present in the Election Commission office to create pressure but the EC did not get bogged down.

One observation is that the number of Congress working committee members have not contested elections. You have contested elections, you have fought in Chhindwara and won nine consecutive terms. Does it mean that the people who know the art of real fight, which is essentially fighting elections, and winning, should be the people acquiring important position in Congress?

Well, when you fight an election, for you it’s a completely different kind of experience. If you have never contested a Lok Sabha election or an Assembly Election, you haven't been through that experience. So this experience is really important, let’s recognise this. Although this experience is really important, but it has to be tempered with other kinds of inputs which Congress needs and that is made by getting people who have not contested elections.

Do you think that, people who don't contest election really don't understand what it takes to win election? For example, you have won elections, Ahmed Patel yesterday showed what it really takes to win election?

Yes, certainly, Ahmed Patel has contested Lok Sabha elections. He was with me in the seventh Lok Sabha. He has contested elections. He has not spent his life in the Rajya Sabha. He has been through that grind of contesting an election. I think it’s a different kind of experience and those who have never contested elections are denied that experience.

Do you think that the senior leaders like you or others have been sidelined and this is an example perhaps in which Ahmed Patel had shown that they can fight back hard?

First, to meet your point that we have been sidelined, I have not been sidelined. I am the member of the working committee. What’s more, I am the member of the highest body of the congress. I am also the general secretary of the Congress party. Sometimes, people themselves don't want to be actively involved, and they don't. So I don't want to say that people are being sidelined, everybody has a role to play and we must utilise them in the role in which they are effective.

Throughout last evening Rahul Gandhi was missing, even as the congress working committee was going on in Delhi. Ahmed Patel was fighting there, Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders were monitoring the situation in Delhi. Leaders like Gulam Nabi Azad and P. Chidambaram were leading delegations to the Election Commission. Does it mean that the Congress' young guard are still not ready?

First, let me correct you when you said Rahul Gandhi was not there. Rahul Gandhi is down with fever, he's got a viral infection. That’s not just yesterday but has been happening from last two days. Even today, as of this morning, he has fever. So, obviously he cannot be there. As for the old guard, of course the old guard has such a reservoir of experience and that it gives them an edge.

Ahmed Patel's victory is coming at the time when Jairam Ramesh has said that the Congress is in deep crisis and that the sultanate is gone but they are still behaving like sultans. Who is the sultan and where is the sultanate?

I think you better ask him.

But you are the leader of the party, sir, you understand statements?

I don't understand, I am not responsible for what he says, what he understands. I don't understand myself so whoever wants to understand this, ask him what he means by this.

Is congress in a crisis?

No, Congress is not in crisis. We were in government for so many years, now we are in the opposition, fair enough. That is what politics is all about but let’s preserve the dignity of Indian politics. Let’s not take politics to a level where money power, muscle power, government machinery become the instruments of winning elections.

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