As the temperature continues to dip in Delhi, election fever has begun to rise. The Congress, which suffered a catastrophic defeat in both Assembly and General elections, is preparing the ground to make a resurgence from the nation’s capital. In an exclusive interview to Tarun Khanna of Zee Media Corp, the former Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president and MP from North East Delhi, Jai Prakash Agarwal, talks about Delhi polls, dynastic politics and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regime.
In 2013 Delhi elections Congress couldn’t win more than eight seats. Will it be able to improve on the number?
Agarwal: There is no doubt about it that we’ll perform better this time. We will bring before people the development work our government has carried out in Delhi, which we had failed to propagate last time. Unlike others, who are claiming that they will win 50 or 40 seats, we do not want to jump the gun. If today I’ll say that Congress will win 50 seats then the next question will be, which 20 seats are we losing? The Congress got many unauthorised colonies legalised and this will certainly pay us dividends.
Given that Shiela Dikshit won’t be contesting election this time, who would be Congress’ chief ministerial face in Delhi?
Agarwal: Elections are contested under the leadership of party president. In Delhi Arvinder Singh Lovely is leading the Congress as DPCC chief. People cast vote for the party and its work, not for a face. Even the BJP had contested Haryana and Maharashtra elections without any chief ministerial face.
In the past two years, Congress has suffered a loss of 35 Assembly seats and all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. How do you analyse the Congress and your individual defeat?
Agarwal: We lost because there was 15 years of anti-incumbency against the Congress in Delhi and, above all, 10 years anti-incumbency at the Centre. Besides this, we were fighting elections against the absolute liars (BJP/AAP). The only weapon we had was the development agenda and no false promises. I had advised a senior Congress leader to make some necessary changes in the administration which people were desperately looking for, but they never happened and it brought unwelcome repercussions for us. Still I would say that under Congress rule, Delhi saw maximum development.
As far as my personal defeat is concerned, in 2009 I had defeated BJP candidate from North East Delhi with over 2,00,000 votes. I accept that in 2014 I got defeated by Manoj Tewari with over 3,00,000 votes, yet it wasn’t JP Agarwal who lost, but the Congress party. People were filled with the feeling of animosity against the Congress. In politics, one has to be prepared for the worst, but this by no means can finish the Congress. The grand old party has been through similar phases in 1967, 1977 and 1989 but this has only strengthened our morale.
What view do you have on dynastic politics?
Agarwal: I have faith in dynastic politics, but not in a manner in which the word is often perceived. We need to understand that dynastic politics is different from dynastic rule which means a king’s reign followed by his son’s. If I’m associated with Congress, probability of my son joining the same party is more – this is called dynastic politics. In dynastic politics a person has to undergo an election process and power is not freely bestowed upon him or her like in dynastic rule.
Then why is it only the Gandhi family that holds supremacy over Congress, notwithstanding the fact that many Congressmen are equally experienced?
Agarwal: Politics runs in the veins of the members of the Gandhi family. Since childhood, they have been observing the ups and downs, ins and outs of politics. Do you really think the children of that family will remain untouched by politics?
Once Sitram Kesari held the reins of the party, the party disbanded. Soniaji has till date kept the party united. Moreover, she was elected as the president and did not get the post in legacy. Today, we have full confidence in Rahul Gandhi’s ability in the face of this adversity. The family has given every drop of its blood for this country.
Do you think Manmohan Singh’s lack of success in projecting himself as a mass leader unlike Narendra Modi cost Congress humiliating defeat in elections?
Agarwal: Certainly not. Had he not been a mass leader, he would not have been re-elected as prime minister in 2009. Those, who are chanting ‘Namo Namo’ these days, will later call Modi a big zero. Modi’s tenure will be described as ‘black days’ in India’s history. What has he done till date? He roared that Pakistan will be given befitting reply, China’s notorious acts will be suppressed and entire black money will be brought back in India. Has he delivered on whatever he had claimed?
It’s appalling; he went to Australia to help Adani in getting coal mines, the sum for which was paid by the State Bank. There is no big deal in arranging 15,000 people in America for a PM’s visit. When I was an MP, I went there to deliver a lecture. There were 3,000 people present. Indeed, the BJP spared no effort to approach Indians living there prior to Modi’s visit. The Indian banks there were asked to compel their employees to attend PM’s public programmes.
And now he has invited Barack Obama to India. Do you realise how much will his visit cost India? Nothing less than Rs 300 crores. What is Obama giving us in return? Is he being invited to build his military base in our country? Modi government has offered visa on arrival to US, but they conduct naked search on Indians. Furthermore, there wasn’t any purpose of Japan visit. If they call it a strategy to counter China’s aggression, they why was PM Modi swaying Xi Jinping on swing in Gujarat?
The international visits of Modi are nothing but a preparation of his portfolio about which he can boast post-retirement.