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'Not His 1st, Sporadic Faux Pas Will Cost Cong': Sanjay Jha's Caution as RaGa Flies Out on Party's 136th Year

By: Pallavi Ghosh

CNN-News18

Last Updated: December 28, 2020, 14:36 IST

File photo of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

File photo of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Jha said that despite having enough political experience, Rahul Gandhi has failed to create a vision map for the Congress and India and 'prolonged periods of hibernation have kept many in the Congress intrigued and worried'.

As Congress celebrated its 136th Foundation Day on Monday, suspended party leader Sanjay Jha claimed that the top leadership in the party “lacks the self-drive needed for transformation”.

In an interview to CNN-News18, Jha said that despite having enough political experience, Rahul Gandhi has failed to create a vision map for the party and India and “prolonged periods of hibernation have kept many in the Congress intrigued and worried”. Edited excerpts:

Congress needs hunger, energy and ambition — the kind demonstrated by Indira Gandhi after the 1977 humiliation. The current leadership lacks the self-drive needed for a transformation.

2020 has been a bad year for the Congress. Important state elections are coming up. Do you think the party can bounce back in the coming year?

Congress needs hunger, energy and ambition — the kind demonstrated by Indira Gandhi after the 1977 humiliation. The current leadership lacks the self-drive needed for a transformation. Technically, the Congress is very much in the game in Assam and Kerala, albeit there are growing headwinds there. It should start an aggressive campaign now. Tamil Nadu should be in the bag with DMK, although I think the party should be pragmatic in seat-sharing and look for alliance victory and not be greedy. Puducherry can be retained. West Bengal is up in the air, but even a truncated TMC might need a Left-Congress support if BJP does well. So it is up to the Congress to make 2021 a turnaround year or fade away into obsolescence.

In your book you mention Rahul Gandhi as a nice guy. Clearly, that’s not enough.

Rahul is a good human being and has noble intentions. He has enough political experience to have by now created a vision map for the party and India, but he rarely articulates them. This lack of accessibility and prolonged periods of hibernation have kept many in the Congress intrigued. And worried. A leader must initiate conversations, invite criticism and feedback and invigorate the party workers. Sadly, Rahul has done them but patchily. He has been inconsistent. I think his biggest problem is a coterie that keeps him insulated and thus ignorant of political realities. And like it or not, the buck stops with him.

Sonia Gandhi met the 23 senior leaders who wrote the letter of dissent but their main demand has yet to see realisation. The leadership issue remains. Is it time for Congress to move beyond the Gandhis?

The leadership is the elephant in the room. Straight and simple. The people of India want Congress to do well but they want a new leadership. We can’t be like an ostrich in the sand permanently.

Congress celebrates its 136th foundation day today but Rahul is absent. Is this the issue with his leadership?

It is a milestone day in the dazzling history of the Grand Old Party of India. It is a momentous occasion. I can see that on Twitter people are ridiculing Rahul all over again. I am sure Rahul could have easily avoided this uncalled for bad publicity as it has not happened for the first time. He is aware of the likely consequences. In public life, perception often matters more than reality. His political brand has flattened, and such sporadic faux pas will damage it. The fact that Rahul has still not taken the “optics and atmospherics” seriously will hurt both him and the Congress.

Priyanka was present at the foundation day. Is she a better leader and option for the Congress? Is this the end of the road? Can anything help it?

I remain convinced that despite the current moribund state of the Congress, it can resurrect itself. And quickly. Because the party fortunately has excellent committed ground level workers who are perhaps more passionate about its political fortunes than the heavyweights living in flamboyant bungalows in Lutyens Delhi. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is intrinsically sharp, tough as nuts, brilliant communicator and has a friendly disposition. It is unfair to judge her based on UP so far. The party has obliterated itself there for decades. Former President Pratibha Patil had once told me that Priyanka should head Mahila Congress to have a national footprint and pull in women voters. That is worth considering.

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first published:December 28, 2020, 12:48 IST
last updated:December 28, 2020, 14:36 IST
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